• 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
  • Saving Nature in 2019: highlights from the RSPB’s year

    It's been quite a year.

    Language that was absent last year is now centre-stage: we face a climate and ecological emergency.  The heightened profile and urgency are because the statistics are dire (as demonstrated by the latest IPCC and IPBES reports) but also because civil society is mobilising with Greta Thunberg rightly named as Time magazine’s person of the year

    There are tentative signs that politicians…

    • 16 Dec 2019
  • The morning after the night before…

    We wake up this morning to a new Conservative UK Government. 

    Whatever your views on the outcome, the election result is likely to mean that the Westminster Parliament will pass the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill by the end of January and then the UK Government will enter into intense negotiations about the future of the UK-EU relationship with a view to completing a deal by the end of 2020. 

    It will also mean that the UK…

    • 13 Dec 2019
  • How the power of many has huge impact for people and nature

    It was easy to escape the white noise of the Westminster General Election last week as I participated in my first meeting of BirdLife International’s Global Council in Cambridge.  It was a privilege to enter the inner sanctum of the world’s largest nature conservation partnership.  We covered a huge amount of ground over three days of intense discussions thanks to the deft chairing of Braulio Dias and the energy…

    • 8 Dec 2019
  • What have the Romans ever done for us? An update on action to tackle illegal killing of wild birds

    Over the last few decades, bird populations around the planet have been experiencing a dramatic and unprecedented decline. Illegal killing, taking and trade of wild birds (IKB) is a main driver of extinctions of wild birds globally, and it is the most significant threat, after habitat loss, to migratory birds. IKB is a global problem requiring urgent and coordinated international action.

    Poisoned red kite (image courtesy…

    • 3 Dec 2019
  • Our challenge for the next decade

    I spoke at a conference today on policy developments in biodiversity and species protection.  As we are in the middle of an election campaign, no one was able to offer a government perspective, but it was still useful to catch up with the latest thinking from others.  A long hand version of my mini contribution is shown below.


    Amidst the white noise surrounding Brexit and the election we seem…

    • 21 Nov 2019
  • News for a Friday: our manifesto for nature

    You may have noticed that we are in the middle of a General Election campaign.

    But this one feels a bit different - not just because it is taking place in autumn/winter but because of the context in which it is taking place.  And I am not talking about the fractious political debate over our future relationship with the European Union.

    The headlines from every news bulletin from the past week demonstrate that we are in the…

    • 15 Nov 2019
  • RSPB review of game bird shooting: an update

    It has been less than two weeks since the Chair of the RSPB’s Council, Kevin Cox, made his announcement about our desire to review our policy on game bird shooting and associated land management.

    There has been a bit of media reaction for example in the Mail and the Telegraph. What’s more, after a BBC Farming Today interview, there was also a rather amusing personal attack on my voice by Jeremy Clarkson in the…

    • 7 Nov 2019
  • Ten things you may have missed from the RSPB’s AGM

    If you were not one of the c400 members that attended our AGM in London on Saturday, this is what you missed…

    1. An announcement from our Chair, Kevin Cox, that we plan to review our policy on game bird shooting and associated land management.
    2. An update on our plans to engage members in tough conversations about diet. Following our review of how the RSPB should respond to the climate crisis, we are determined to…
    • 27 Oct 2019
  • Announcement of review of RSPB policy on gamebird shooting

    At today’s AGM, the Chair of RSPB Council, Kevin Cox, made this announcement.

    There is growing concern about the environmental impact (including for carbon, water and biodiversity) of intensive forms of game bird shooting and associated land management practices.  This includes both driven grouse moor management (which involves shooting our native red grouse) and largescale release of non-native game birds…

    • 26 Oct 2019
  • More on the new Environment Bill

    Here's another guest blog, this time from my colleague Ali Plummer. This analysis was done with the expectation that today would see the second reading of the new Environment Bill. Obviously the Withdrawal Bill has taken precedence but the insight is still timely.


    As outlined in a previous blog, the UK Government laid its Environment Bill before Parliament last Tuesday. Coming nearly six months after…

    • 22 Oct 2019
  • Unhappy anniversary: Progress on Special Protection Areas across the UK (guest blog by Kate Jennings)

    I am away with the family for a few days over half term, but have lined up a couple of guest blogs this week.  The first is from my colleague Kate Jennings who leads our work on protected areas.


    Special Protection Areas (SPAs), created under the EU Birds Directive and now enshrined in laws across the UK, protect some of our very best sites for birds across all four countries of the UK, from the Somerset…

    • 21 Oct 2019
  • Environmental implications of the new UK-EU deal

    If you are interested in the environmental implications of the new UK-EU deal which will be debated in the House of Commons tomorrow, please do read this briefing that has been prepared by Greener UK (of which we are a founding member).

    Let's see what tomorrow brings...

    • 18 Oct 2019
  • How best to mark World Chocolate Week

    It was striking that during the Secretary of State’s sweeping speech accompanying the publication of the Environment Bill this week she placed a lot of emphasis on the international leadership role that the UK Government seeks.

    The UK Government is rightly proud of the impact of its Blue Belt programme leading to designation of marine protected areas around its Overseas Territories, it is rightly proud of its Darwin…

    • 16 Oct 2019
  • Initial reaction to new Environment Bill

    I have just emerged from a speech by Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers announcing the publication of a new Environment Bill.

    This comes a fortnight after we published the state of nature report highlighting the ongoing and shocking declines of wildlife across the UK.

    The publication of the Environment Bill is, of course, an important milestone: for the first time we have, after many years campaigning and hard work…

    • 15 Oct 2019
  • An update on the General License and a call for action

    Across all four countries of the UK every wild bird is protected by law, it is illegal to intentionally kill or injury a wild bird, damage eggs or disturb an active nest. In most areas the law is black and white, however there are circumstances where a license can be issued to grant an exemption from this law.

    Which brings up the question, is it ever justified to kill? A big question, but an important one for conservation…

    • 15 Oct 2019
  • An update on the environmental implications of Brexit

    The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged that the UK will leave the European Union on 31 October 2019 ‘come what may’, whilst many parliamentarians continue to seek to wrestle back control of Brexit from the UK Government.

    Meanwhile, evidence that a ‘no deal’ or ‘hard Brexit’ would be damaging for the UK’s natural environment continues to mount. 

    I write this acutely aware…

    • 9 Oct 2019
  • Good news for a Friday: how the RSPB is striving to improve its own environmental performance

    With the publication of the new State of Nature report, today seems as good a day as any to provide an update on how the RSPB is improving its own environmental performance.  As I wrote in my recent blog on the RSPB and Climate Change, there is an added urgency to tackle our own ecological footprint and we are determined to up our game.  Here, my colleague Sarah Alsbury (who leads our work in this area) outlines progress…

    • 4 Oct 2019
  • How we should respond to the 2019 State of Nature report

    In 2013, the first State of Nature report was published and it provided, for the first time, a shared evidence about what was happening to wildlife across the UK.  In short, it united the conservation community behind a common UK nature conservation story.

    Today, the third such report has been published this time with an increased partnership of more than 70 wildlife organisations which this time includes the government…

    • 3 Oct 2019
  • Are things changing in Europe?

    I have, for understandable reasons, been a little detached from European Commission politics in recent weeks so I was pleasantly surprised/amazed to read the agenda for Europe by the proposed EC President Ursula von der Leyen.

    This is the single more environmentally coherent statement I have read from any political leader and contrasts remarkably from the one from her predecessor Jean-Claude Juncker whose own agenda triggered…

    • 1 Oct 2019
  • How the RSPB’s role and response to the climate change crisis will change

    It has been quite a week - starting with four million people (young and old) taking to the streets as part of the Global Climate Strike last Friday and followed up with a week of campaigning action. 

    As the youth strike for climate continues today, politicians at Westminster are stuck in the increasingly toxic Brexit vortex and global leaders fail to come up with a convincing response to the brilliant and passionate appeal…

    • 27 Sep 2019