• BirdLife International call for a new right to be included in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    To mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the CEO of BirdLife International, Patricia Zurita, has written to the Secretary General of the UN António Guterres to convince the UN to include the right to a healthy natural environment in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  

    The text of the letter is shown below. 

    Given the growing understanding of the value of nature to our own species, this right seems long…

    • 22 Apr 2020
  • An update on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the RSPB and our sector

    The coronavirus pandemic continues to take a heavy toll on global society.  My thoughts are with all of those affected by the virus and especially those working on the frontline in health services around the world.  All of us that have friends or families cared for by the National Health Service in this country are hugely grateful for the incredible work carried out by our medical professionals.

    As I wrote last week, the…

    • 20 Apr 2020
  • A comment on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the work of the RSPB

    Since I last wrote on 17 March, our whole way of life has been upended.  From a personal perspective, it's probably been the most challenging period of my career and arguably some of the most challenging weeks in the long history of the RSPB.  We’ve closed our nature reserves, halted our field work, postponed some vital conservation work such as the Gough Island Restoration Programme, brought home colleagues from…

    • 6 Apr 2020
  • An update on the Gough Island restoration programme

    As I said in my previous post, we have been doing a lot of contingency planning in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is to make sure that as much of the RSPB's work keeps going as possible. That is the aim, but we also must be practical and ensure staff safety and project feasibility. It will sometimes involve making some tough decisions.

    One area of work where we have had to make an incredibly difficult but essential…

    • 17 Mar 2020
  • Short comment on the delay in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity negotiations

    It is now inevitable yet still deeply disappointing that I shall have to report postponements of major conservation initiatives over the coming days.  Today's has particular symbolism.  October 2020 was supposed to be the month the world made a renewed commitment to tackle the biodiversity crisis. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has been working to develop an ambitious global framework of action for the…

    • 17 Mar 2020
  • Why 18,458 is a magic number

    This past week has been intense and deeply unsettling.  It is now clear that our lives will be massively disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

    Like everyone else, we have been doing contingency planning designed to keep the RSPB's work going, adhering to government advice and of course playing our part in keeping our people safe.

    While none of us know how this will unfold, I am determined to carry on sharing information…

    • 15 Mar 2020
  • Response to Budget 2020

    On Monday, I posed some environmental tests for the Budget: to back up strong political commitments to restore nature in a generation with adequate resourcing; to reverse declines in public spending on nature; and also to ensure the ensure that the UK Government sounds consistent and coherent on the environment.

    The new Chancellor Rishi Sunak has delivered his first Budget and what follows below is our assessment based…

    • 11 Mar 2020
  • Woodlands for climate and nature? New RSPB report published to help navigate the evidence maze

    The conversation about how nature can help us tackle climate change has become dominated by trees.  Today, the RSPB publishes a report reviewing the evidence about how different approaches to woodland expansion can help or indeed hinder our attempts to address the climate and ecological emergency.  This (slightly longer than usual) blog gives outlines the key messages from the report.

    Conifer plantation alongside fridd…

    • 10 Mar 2020
  • Environmental tests for Budget 2020

    The Super Year of 2020 isn’t quite panning out as anticipated.  First the floods and now coronavirus is dominating the headlines.

    Despite growing and understandable fears about the impact of the epidemic, the UK Government must find time to retain its focus on backing up its promises to restore nature in a generation. 

    This means ensuring the package of Brexit laws (for Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries) passing…

    • 8 Mar 2020
  • A reflection on last week’s global biodiversity talks by Georgina Chandler

    With just eight months left before the world is due to agree a new global framework for nature under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, my colleague Georgina Chandler reflects on her week taking part in discussions about the post-2020 agenda in Rome.   

    These talks matter as the resulting agreement will become the global plan to tackle the biodiversity crisis and is the plan which ratifying parties like the UK will…

    • 2 Mar 2020
  • An update on the RSPB’s review of its policy on gamebird shooting and an opportunity to share views

    At last year’s AGM, the Chair of the RSPB’s Council announced that we would be reviewing our policy on gamebird shooting.  Today, I provide details about how we shall run the review and how you can give us your views.

    Background to the review

    We are undertaking the review because there is growing public concern and mounting scientific evidence about the environmental impacts of the most intensive form of shooting…

    • 20 Feb 2020
  • A critique of the Westminster Environment Bill

    Following the General Election at the end of last year, several significant pieces of environmental legislation have been published: the Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment Bills.   You can find a critique of the Agriculture Bill here, the UK Fisheries Bill here and today I provide (thanks to our team) a more detailed assessment of the Environment Bill which was published a fortnight ago.  At the end of this blog I explain…

    • 16 Feb 2020
  • Show the love and make a pledge for nature

    It’s Valentine’s Day and so it’s time to show the love.

    This year, as we are part of The Climate Coalition, the RSPB is asking people to share their personal pledge for nature to inspire others to do the same.  We have asked people to write or film their pledge and share it on social media using #ShowtheLove.

    The video of my pledge (which was taken on a particularly bad hair day) was posted this week…

    • 14 Feb 2020
  • Are standards slipping?

    Last week saw the opening salvo in the negotiations about the future of the UK-EU trading relationship.  The EU released its draft negotiation mandate (33 pages) and the UK its written statement (2 pages) on the same topic. 

    While both sides generally take very different approaches to negotiations – the EU being very open so that the 27 Member States can align behind a position while the UK keeps its cards close to its…

    • 9 Feb 2020
  • Some thoughts on the new UK Fisheries Bill

    Last week saw the publication of a new UK Fisheries Bill, one of the government’s flagship pieces of post-Brexit legislation. This is the second time that the UK government has tried to pilot a fisheries bill through the Houses of Parliament. The temptation to bring back a carbon copy of the 2018 Bill must have been high, but it was clear to many that big changes were needed if government were to match its stated ambition…

    • 5 Feb 2020
  • A comment on the UK’s exit from the European Union

    From 11pm tonight, the UK is no longer a Member of the European Union.  The Withdrawal Agreement Treaty has been ratified by both the UK and EU Parliaments and we enter an implementation/transition* (delete as appropriate) period while a new trading relationship is negotiated. 

    While people will have very different emotions about the denouement of a saga that has run for many years, from an environmental perspective, we…

    • 31 Jan 2020
  • My Bird Garden Birdwatch as it happened

    I have had my porridge, so can sit back with my coffee and get started.  I will probably be on my own as two are in bed and my daughter is focusing on creating her Macbeth Board game which should be snapped up by Waddingtons very soon. 

    In the cricket, South Africa are 123-7 chasing 400.

    08:36: I know, it’s a little cheeky but the starling had just arrived, so I thought I’d start now.  And there is a house sparrow…

    • 26 Jan 2020
  • Twinning and winning for nature and the climate in Essex and in the Yellow Sea

    It was a pleasure to welcome Defra Biodiversity Minister Rebecca Pow to Wallasea Island yesterday and showcase the largest coastal habitat restoration project in Europe. 

    The timing was good given that the Minister will soon be leading the Environment Bill through the House of Commons and this will be the legislation that the Government hopes will restore England’s natural environment in a generation.

    As I wrote…

    • 24 Jan 2020
  • ‘New Decade, New Approach’: The Return of the Northern Ireland Assembly

    Nature does not adhere to borders nor do threats like climate change, so if the UK Government is serious about leaving the environment in a better state for future generations there is a clear need for coherent action from governments across the UK.  Today, my colleagues John Martin and Jane Clarke offer their thoughts on the environmental implications of the welcome return of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


    • 20 Jan 2020
  • Essential reading for world leaders and finance ministers

    Later in 2020, governments will gather in Kunming, China, to revisit global targets on protecting ecosystems and halting species loss. This is a critical moment: as climate change exacerbates ecosystem collapse, we could be causing irreversible ecosystem damage with serious economic and social consequences.  Some of the most serious impacts will not occur gradually, but rather suddenly and violently, as critical…

    • 19 Jan 2020
  • A comment on this week’s promising news

    2020 has, as expected, started with a bang with a raft of new announcements and bills.  Given the result of the General Election, it was inevitable that things would start moving and that has clearly happened in Northern Ireland with the Stormont Deal (which will be the subject of a future blog), at Westminster, but in this so-called Super Year, things are also moving globally. 

    Below, I highlight three things that have…

    • 17 Jan 2020
  • The Conditions for Optimism (1): ten lessons from Wallasea Island

    Either side of the new year, I visited three of the RSPB’s most impressive conservation projects in England.  Last week I was with RSPB colleagues exploring our work in the Pennines and the Lakes brought to life by short, winter-appropriate tours of Geltsdale and Haweswater (with the latter looking particularly picturesque after a dusting of snow); back in December, I returned to Wallasea Island for the first time…

    • 13 Jan 2020
  • 2020: why we must remain conditional optimists

    The end of 2019 was marked by the deeply disappointing Madrid climate change talks.  The holiday season was then dominated by news of the appalling fires in Australia, floods in Jakarta and record temperatures (see for example here and here). 

    It would, therefore, be entirely understandable if you are in search of reasons to be cheerful as we enter a new decade. 

    My simple tip would be to look out for the Earth Optimis…

    • 3 Jan 2020
  • A bumper issue of news for a Friday (some of which is good)

    In (definitely) my last blog of the year and indeed the decade, I am delighted to be able to report some more news (mainly good) to add to my review of the year published earlier in the week…

    …first, some great news from Bangalore where six Himalayan Griffon vultures have been successfully released from an aviary.  The Himalayan Griffons used for this pilot release phase have been rehabilitated over the past…

    • 20 Dec 2019
  • RSPB verdict on the Madrid climate change talks by Melanie Coath

    While some may have been distracted by the Westminster general election here in the UK, Sunday saw the close of two weeks of climate change negotiations under UN climate convention. My colleague Melanie Coath was out in Madrid at these talks and I’ve asked her to share her sense of where the talks ended up and what this means for nature and the climate.  As you can read below, the outcome is not what what we would…

    • 17 Dec 2019