Global Policy

Our work to create a better world for nature.

Saving Special Places and Species (international)

On patrol with forest rangers in the Harapan Rainforest, Sumatra, Indonesia

The RSPB works to save special places and species across the world through managing areas for conservation, working with partners and local communities to save sites from damaging development, and working to build international cooperation for improved conservation across migration flyways.

This work takes place across different landscapes. Forests are particularly important because they harbour a large proportion of the world’s species, especially tropical forests. The RSPB has two long-established and exciting tropical projects to conserve tropical forests: the Greater Gola landscape straddling Sierra Leone and Liberia, and Hutan Harapan in Sumatra, Indonesia. Between these two landscapes, the RSPB and partners are managing over half a million hectares for conservation. Each of these forests harbours a rich diversity of species including globally threatened species.

We also have a focus on coastal wetlands given their importance for migratory waterbirds, and on the UK Overseas Territories which hold 89% of the UK’s critically endangered species.

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UK Overseas Territories

A woman monitoring a Tristan albatross nest for research

The UK’s 14 Overseas Territories hold environments of global significance: a quarter of the world’s penguins, a third of the world’s albatross, 94% of unique British wildlife, every major habitat type on earth and the fifth largest marine estate on the planet. Local communities are highly dependent on these environmental assets, but find themselves on the frontline of the extinction and climate crises.

The RSPB has been working to support local Territory conservationists for over 20 years. Our work programme is focussed on:

  • Sites:
    - Protection and management of the most valuable terrestrial sites, from rainforests to windswept tundra
    - Supporting the protection of 4 million square kilometres of their rich waters
  • Species: Preventing extinctions, from albatrosses to iguanas, island trees to spiky woodlice
  • Policy: Strengthening biodiversity protection, development control and biosecurity policy
  • Capacity-Building: Supporting the development of strong, sustainable and locally-led Territory conservation organisations
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Global Treaties and Conventions

View of Lake Natron in Tanzania

It is clear that our nature and climate are in crisis. The UK parliament has declared a climate emergency, and reports state that 1 million species are at risk of extinction globally. We work to tackle these crises at the international level through engaging with UN conventions, including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). These are crucial spaces in which countries can build consensus, make collective decisions, set targets, and foster international cooperation and action for nature.

The CBD and the UNFCCC are amidst a pivotal time of uplift and renewal. The latest UNFCCC negotiations took place in Glasgow in November 2021 for COP26 to ramp up global ambition and action to tackle climate change. Working with our BirdLife partners we advocated for and welcomed the recognition of the need to protect and restore ecosystems in the negotiation outcomes. The CBD will have negotiations soon at COP15 to develop a new framework setting global targets to tackle the nature emergency over the next decade. As the UK partner of BirdLife International, the RSPB is advocating for higher ambition and the development of robust, measurable targets for nature’s and climate’s recovery, which are translated into action. We also lead BirdLife’s CMS engagement, with a focus on a variety of issues, including work to eradicate the illegal killing of birds.

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UK Global Footprint, Trade, and Overseas Development Aid

Aerial shot of rainforest, Sumatra, Indonesia

As the world’s fifth-largest economy, the UK is a major importer and consumer of agricultural commodities. While this trade can have benefits, if it is not managed sustainably with strong safeguards it can have serious detrimental impacts; vast areas of tropical rainforest are lost annually to meet demand for commodities such as palm oil and cocoa, which puts severe pressure on forest-dependent species and generates substantial emissions. The RSPB is working to find solutions and convince governments to introduce regulatory approaches to address unsustainable supply chains. We have developed ‘Risky Business’ reports with WWF which reveal the overseas footprint linked to the UK’s consumption of key commodities.

The UK is also one of the largest donors of Overseas Development Aid globally. This financing has huge potential to deliver shared solutions for nature, people, and the climate and we are working with partners to ensure ODA spending is nature-positive and to define and demonstrate what this means in practice.  

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International Fisheries

One of the greatest threats to albatrosses and other seabirds is being killed incidentally in longline fisheries as bycatch. The BirdLife International Marine Programme, hosted by RSPB, conduct engagement and advocacy work with the tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisations and advocacy work to tackle seabird bycatch. 

In 2003 we began work with the five tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs), who are made up of fishing nations and are tasked with managing tuna stocks and the overall sustainability of fisheries on the high seas. Since then all five RFMOs have adopted conservation measures for seabirds, requiring vessels fishing in areas overlapping with seabirds to use measures to mitigate bycatch.

Despite the adoption of measures, bycatch levels remain high and compliance with measures is low. We advocate in the RFMOs, as well as directly with key governments, for improved data collection, increased observer coverage, and greater compliance with measures, with the aim of reducing bycatch to negligible levels.

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