• Tackling climate change: why there can be no plan B

    In 2008 the UK Climate Change Act became law and history was made. The Act was – and still is – a world leading legislative commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep the world within ‘safe’ limits of climate change. The RSPB was one of the many charities that got behind the Act because of the huge threat climate change poses to species at home and across the globe. It was passed with cross party…

    • 26 Nov 2012
  • Greenest government, whatever?

    A recent poll of the British public suggests that the coalition Government is falling short of its commitment to be the greenest Government ever.  Only 17% agreed that the Government is the greenest ever, whereas 55% disagreed and 27% did not know. 

    The poll was commissioned by Wildlife and Countryside Link, which includes 39 NGOs - including the RSPB.  It was produced to provide an insight into public attitudes to run…

    • 27 Nov 2012
  • Shuffling the deck-chairs (2): tests to judge the review of England’s environment agencies

    I promised here to say more the future of England’s statutory agencies.

    Sorry that it has taken a while for me to return to this topic – I have been distracted by the EU Budget and my trip to Brussels where we were celebrating the success of our EU funded wildlife friendly farming project.  Local communities working with farmers to help recover farmland wildlife.  The importance of incentives to help farmers…

    • 30 Nov 2012
  • Fighting for farmland wildlife

    Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, was on pugnacious form at a parliamentary reception hosted by Joan Walley MP yesterday. He was responding to Link’s assessment of the coalition Government’s track record on the environment.

    It was good to see him engaging in discussion on issues as diverse as including invasive species, planning reform, bees and badgers. It is through lively debate that you achieve better…

    • 28 Nov 2012
  • An open letter to the Prime Minister from farmers, rural policy academics and wildlife NGOs

    The imminent debate about the EU Budget has prompted farmers, academics and NGOs in the west country to join forces to write to the Prime Minister.  The sentiment is one which I am sure is shared by many others across the UK...

    "Dear Prime Minister

    In this time of austerity it’s paramount that the trillion Euro EU budget delivers real value for money. Freezing its size and securing the rebate alone will not be a…

    • 20 Nov 2012
  • EU Budget talks collapse: an opportunity for politicians to think again

    In the end, it was perhaps no surprise that the EU Budget talks have collapsed.  The 27 Member States arrived with different priorities and different negotiating positions.  It was always going to be hard to crack this in one go.  They have decided to reconvene in January 2013.

    But this is an opportunity for politicians to go back to the drawing-board. 

    We were getting increasingly concerned that the best bits of the budget…

    • 23 Nov 2012
  • D-day approaches for farmland wildlife

    In the week that the EU Heads of State meet to agree the amount of money for wildlife friendly farming, a new report published today suggests that we have lost 44 million birds from the UK since 1966. 

    In State of UK Birds 2012* we have calculated that the total number of breeding pairs of birds in the UK has fallen from 105 to 83 million – a loss of 22 million pairs. Numbers have remained roughly stable either side of a substantial…

    • 19 Nov 2012
  • Chalara fraxinea: the next 48 hours are crucial

    Although government orders are now in place banning the import of all ash trees into Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the next 48 hours will be critical for determining the extent of the ash die-back disease Chalara fraxinea.

    A nationwide survey of selected woods in all 10km grid squares within Great Britain began this weekend.  This was designed to give a clearer picture of the extent of this disease.  This work is…

    • 6 Nov 2012
  • A message to European Heads of State: don't cut the life from our countryside

    Over the past 40 years Europe has lost 300 million birds and in just the past 15 years we have lost 70% of European grassland butterflies.  Farmland wildlife remains in crisis.  Following proposals released yesterday, the situation will get a lot worse unless leaders show an enlightened approach to EU Budget discussions next week.

    Yesterday, new figures were released on the proposed EU Budget for 2014-2020 and they make…

    • 15 Nov 2012
  • How to prevent another wildlife catastrophe - a message for the Prime Minister

    One silver lining to the ash die-back crisis is that it is reigniting the debate about how we manage the countryside and ensure wildlife is in good health.

    As we rightly take the opportunity to intensify debate about the importance of better regulation of species movement and improved biosecurity, I hope colleagues in Defra and other bits of government, have enough energy to put a spotlight on the crucial role that agri…

    • 9 Nov 2012
  • Three traps for ministers to avoid while tackling the ash die-back crisis

    Following the Secretary of State's announcement on Friday, it is clear that Chalara fraxinea is here to stay.  We, and our ash trees, are somehow going to have to learn to live with it.  This is why we welcomed the government action plan designed to deal with the spread of ash die-back in UK woodlands. 

    We were pleased that Defra said that as part of the containment plan "mature trees will not currently be removed…

    • 12 Nov 2012
  • Battles over Europe and consequences for our wildlife: a view from Dr Mike Clarke, Chief Executive of the RSPB

    Below is an opinion piece from my boss, Dr Mike Clarke, which appears in the Daily Telegraph here

    Have a read and let me know what you think.


    Next summer, if you happen to be journeying along a country lane, you may be lucky enough to hear the joyous song of a skylark, high above a field of golden wheat. You may stop to capture the colour of butterflies…

    • 21 Nov 2012
  • Shuffling the deck-chairs?

    When it comes to nature conservation and environmental protection, there are a few big tasks that only government can do.

    Governments can set the ambition (bigger populations for species, more habitat), agree policy (to guide how we use our land and sea), establish laws (to protect species and sites) and secure resources from the exchequer to make this happen. 

    But there are some jobs that are better done at arms length…

    • 13 Nov 2012
  • Public debate needs to take the environment more seriously

    The world obviously did not stand still just because some of us decided to take a break over half-term.  While I had a great week, it was difficult to ignore the headlines and, at times, not be frustrated by the way the environment can get sidelined in public debate.  Here are fives examples...


    The vote on the EU Budget in the House of Commons demonstrated how narrow political debate can be.  Given the posturing…

    • 5 Nov 2012
  • Things happen on Wednesdays

    Well, not every Wednesday.  But three rather significant things did happen yesterday.

    First, two of the RSPB's forestry experts attended the ash die-back summit convened by the Secretary of State, Owen Paterson.  Here is the Defra statement and our response to the latest reports of spread of the disease can be found here.

    Second, I participated in an IEEM debate in Cardiff yesterday entitled "The greatest threat to…

    • 8 Nov 2012
  • A 'wild' election special

    This may have passed you by, but tomorrow (15 November) the country goes to the polls again.  So I shall take a short break from the day-to-day commentary of ash die-back and the rather dry business of insitutional reform to provide you with an election special.

    Whatever you think about these elections, there is (perhaps surprisingly) a chance for the successful candidates to make a difference for wildlife. 

    First, Police…

    • 14 Nov 2012