It is time our leaders recognised that we are in a nature and climate emergency – and commit to act on it

Thursday 28 October 2021

People taking part in a protest holding signs

The RSPB is attending the UN COP26 climate summit in Glasgow to ensure nature is not forgotten as world leaders meet.

Across the UK and the world, our wildlife is vanishing.  Much loved species are in decline or facing extinction and our wild places are under threat.  At the same time climate change is affecting our seasons and impacting on natural cycles on which our birds and other wildlife depend. We are in a climate AND nature emergency and the two are interlinked, as set out in recent IPCC reports.  In the influential State of Nature report, climate change is listed as one of the key drivers of wildlife decline in the UK.  But nature could also be our greatest ally in the challenge to store more carbon and adapt to the impacts already manifesting around the world for our own species in the shape of extreme weather events, wildfire and flooding.

In discussing climate change, decision-makers in the UK often focus attention on emissions and the impact on people.  While these are vital to tackle, it can lead to overlooking the impact global heating is having on wildlife and wild places as well as the positive role nature can play in helping tackle climate change through ‘nature based solutions’ such as restoring forests and peatland.

Even at the highest level, the UN holds two separate sets of negotiations – one for climate (happening now in Glasgow) and one for nature (happening next at COP15 in Kunming, China in spring 2022). As a result, while negotiators meet in Glasgow to discuss the global response to global heating, the role and potential of nature-based solutions to climate change will not be featuring on the main agenda.

The RSPB, BirdLife International and many other wildlife and environment organisations will be attending the Glasgow talks to make the case for tackling the loss of nature and the climate crisis together. While nature is largely absent from the formal negotiations, we’re pleased the UK Government has made nature one of the key “themes” of the events surrounding the talks and we look forward to hearing more about the package of announcements from world leaders to halt and reverse tropical deforestation. We will be supporting their efforts to make these initiatives a success and continue to push for nature to be moved to the heart of future negotiations.

As hosts of the summit, the UK must ensure that COP26 is remembered as a moment when the world not only kept the goal of limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees of warming alive, but also set the agenda for how each nation would back their commitments with financed actions, including for nature.

This is why the RSPB is attending COP26 in Glasgow, and why we are joining people across the UK in calling for action to save nature and tackle climate change. And we’ll be following this through when COP15 takes place in China next spring.

Through #MyClimateAction we are helping people to show they care, can make a difference and have their voice heard as part of these global gatherings.  Over the next two weeks we will be talking with decision makers to ensure they hear those voices and recognise this is a nature and climate emergency.

There will still be much for us to do after the summit.  The governments of the UK will be tasked with turning their commitments into financed action, and the Prime Minister will need to live up to his words and deliver in order to be a true global leader for the environment. As ever, we will hold them to account and also help them shape the policy and legislative changes required.  But our success in tackling climate change will depend on not forgetting the natural world – rather on seeing it as our greatest ally, delivering multiple benefits for climate and our own species as well as helping us build a world richer in nature for our own and future generations.

Beccy Speight

Chief executive of the RSPB


Corrimony RSPB reserve, commercial forestry plantation of pine and larch

Last Updated: Monday 1 November 2021

Tagged with: Country: UK Topic: Climate change