Nature and climate emergency

Climate change is the greatest long-term threat to nature and people we face. We’re seeing more extreme weather, destruction of habitats, and species moving further north as temperatures change.

Laws to drive nature’s recovery

The RSPB has been advocating for strong laws to protect and drive the restoration of nature, backed up by robust and independent governance to ensure they are adhered to. The new Westminster Environment Act is an ambitious piece of framework legislation aimed at filling the governance gap caused by leaving the EU by creating a new watchdog – the Office for Environmental Protection. It also defines environmental principles that Ministers must have regard to when developing policies.

Crucially the Act also provides for long term binding targets for air quality, water, biodiversity and resource efficiency & waste reduction, and a separate species abundance target to halt declines by 2030.   We are working to make sure implementation of the nature and water chapters and the provisions on due diligence for companies deliver genuine improvements to nature and will continue to push for new legislation to plug any gaps.

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Local leadership in England

A European starling perched on the roof of a new build property in a housing estate

Tackling the nature and climate crisis is not solely the responsibility of Westminster politicians. Our local government leaders, including the directly elected mayors of the cities and combined authorities that are home to over a third of the English population, also have a responsibility to protect and enhance the environment for future generations. Access to nature and greenspace is vital for people’s mental and physical health and wellbeing, and local leaders now have an opportunity to be the champions of change by setting out clear measurable actions to recover nature and tackle climate change in their regions.

By investing in the natural environment, local leaders will deliver benefits for people, the economy and the environment, delivering attractive places to live and to work, where nature is allowed to thrive.

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Reaching net zero emissions

A beautiful shot of the peatlands

We cannot solve the nature and climate crisis without cutting our greenhouse gas emissions rapidly across all sectors of the economy and protecting and restoring our precious natural ecosystems. This will help us to keep below dangerous climatic limits that will have a vast impact on nature, communities and livelihoods here in the UK and internationally.

Reaching net-zero is critical for achieving a world richer in wildlife. It describes the balance between reducing emissions and removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. In the UK, the target is to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, and Scotland by 2045. The RSPB supports a more ambitious target of net-zero for all countries by 2045 at the latest. The aim of these targets is to limit warming and keep us on a path towards 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Urgent action is needed to avoid devastating outcomes for people and nature.

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Nature Based Solutions

Curlew Numenius arquata standing on hill in front of lake

Our natural environment faces unprecedented declines globally as a result of ecosystem loss and degradation. In the UK around two-fifths of species have declined in recent decades. The nature and climate emergencies are fundamentally linked and how we respond to one affects the other; it is essential that we do everything we can to protect and enhance nature in the fight to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Nature-based solutions are ways to tackle the challenges faced by society, such as climate change and its impacts, by protecting, restoring ecosystems and managing them sustainably. The benefits are often multiple, for humanity and wildlife.

Often nature-based solutions can be readily ‘rolled-out’ at scale and can be relatively cost-effective, so it is essential that nature-based solutions are recognised within the policies, incentives and other systems that govern land and sea usage and climate change action.

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Living with climate change

Nature has felt the impacts of climate change for more than 30 years. There are opportunities as well as vulnerabilities – yet even many opportunities require a conservation response to bring them to reality.

We have a twin track approach to adapting to climate change. There’s much early focus on building resilience, being able to withstand climate change, to strengthen species populations and bring back nature largely as we know it. Yet the speed and severity of climate change means that we increasingly need to live with new climate conditions, rather than against them, and make the best for nature in newly dynamic circumstances.  

We’ll still need nature reserves of course – indeed, more of them, and bigger ones, better connected and managed more in tune with the trajectory of climate change. A 2 Celsius world is likely just twenty years away. This offers a milestone to take stock, learn how our familiar habitats and species ranges may change, and put into practice a new understanding across all of our work so that the challenge of climate change is transformed into building nature’s riches into the future.

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Ocean and Climate

Tiny crabs on a delicate orange coral

Covering 70% of the Earth’s surface, our oceans influence much of life on Earth. As such, it is no surprise that marine and coastal ecosystems play a central role in the fight against climate change.

Many marine ecosystems, such as saltmarshes, seagrass meadows, wetlands, as well as marine animals or sediments are, when healthy, very efficient at capturing and storing carbon – becoming ‘Blue Carbon’.

However, their contribution in tackling the Climate Crisis doesn’t stop there. Beyond their carbon storing qualities, marine ecosystems have the potential of mitigating some of the consequences of climate change. They can act as nurseries and food sources for many organisms including waterbirds, support fisheries by providing nursery for commercially important species or help protect coastal infrastructure and communities by reducing the risk of coastal flooding and erosion.

As such, it is critical to protect, manage and aid the recovery of these ecosystems, and it represents an excellent example of nature-based solutions.

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Policy and Insight: England and Westminster

Environmental policies created in Westminster affect England, the UK, our oversea territories, and international agreements.