Why we can’t let net zero become a victim of the culture wars

Our Chief Executive, Beccy Speight, explains why we cannot let commitments on climate change and nature restoration become lost in language and political point scoring. Not least when the UK has one of the lowest remaining levels of intact biodiversity on earth – worse than any other G7 or G20 nation.

5 min read
Beccy Speight looking up and smiling whilst stood in a field of high grassland.

We stood on the world stage as "global leaders" for nature at COP15 in Montreal, but now threaten to junk even the modest commitments made. Where is the leadership? Where are the commitments to future generations?

July was the hottest on record globally and wildfires are raging. Extreme weather is here, on our doorstep. Rather than this being a wakeup call, our leaders are seemingly willing to not just accept this becoming a new normal, but are fanning the flames of the already out of control nature and climate emergencies by weakening or even removing environmental protections.

A working tackling the remains of a peatland fire.

And just as concerning, they are facilitating the language around net zero becoming a victim of the culture wars. Environmental policy shouldn’t be likened to a 'religious crusade', and nor does being supportive of it make you a ‘tree hugger’. Diminishing language like this distracts from the urgency of the state we are in and can create distance from the reason such policy is needed in the first place. And the suggestion that the only way for us to reach net zero is by putting ‘hassle’ on individual households is concerning and reductionist. There are a myriad of ways to implement policy at scale that does not rely on putting blanket asks on households across the UK, for example through land use policy, business policy, energy policy to name but a few.

A Bumblebee flying between pink flowers.

The BBC’s Wild Isles showed that people in the UK do care about nature. 10 million tuned in to see how amazing our wildlife is, and learned of its fragility - these numbers outstrip political party memberships. Meanwhile businesses of all sizes have pledged support to the Save Our Wild Isles campaign. This gives me hope, and I’m inspired by where else leadership can be found. I applaud the 100 businesses who recently wrote to the Prime Minister with concerns about us being left behind on net zero, because they know that investing now makes economic sense and protects our businesses, households, our natural world and the very fabric of our lives from the risks posed by climate change.

COP28 looms, and following the positivity inspired in Glasgow just two years ago, we still have an opportunity to turn global ambition into delivery on the ground. Not just to drive legitimacy but to demonstrate the art of the possible - through domestic policy, legislation and action. Yet our window to act is closing. We cannot afford to get lost with loose lips and political point scoring.

A pair of Gannets on a nest on a cliffs edge next to the sea.

The loss of biodiversity around the world has reached an unprecedented rate. Instead of rowing to meet the rising tide, across the political spectrum we seem to be rowing away. We have a current to go against, but we must not lose hope.

The wildfires must be extinguished and not become bonfires of environmental protection by decision-makers who are too focused on today at the risk of tomorrow. Our members and supporters are looking to their representatives to represent them - nature is in crisis, but together we can save it.

Want to play your part?

Tackling the nature and climate crisis is the fight that unites us all. Discover campaigning with the RSPB.

Discover easy and fun ways to help the Nature on Your Doorstep.

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