I am an unapologetic optimist, but it can be hard to be upbeat with the current political turmoil and intensely challenging messages on climate change, plastic pollution and “insectmageddon”.

Amid the gloom, we need reasons to be cheerful, so I’m delighted to have one to share with you today: an exciting global call to action for Natural Climate Solutions.

I know, more jargon, but Natural Climate Solutions captures the critical role nature plays in addressing the climate crisis. To date, these solutions have been woefully underplayed and the RSPB and others have been increasingly vocal in highlighting the importance of their role in addressing the twin crises of climate chaos and biodiversity declines.

RSPB Forsinard courtesy of rspb-images.com

Today, this message is being supercharged with a major call to action led by a group of high profile voices who are calling on governments around the world to support Natural Climate Solutions backed up by an urgent programme of research, funding and political commitment.

A list of well-known names, including Greta Thunberg, Naomi Klein, Margaret Atwood, Mohamed Nasheed, Rowan Williams, Michael Mann and many more, particularly from the Global South, have signed a letter highlighting that…

“…by defending, restoring and re-establishing forests, peatlands, mangroves, salt marshes, natural seabeds and other crucial ecosystems, very large amounts of carbon can be removed from the air and stored. At the same time, the protection and restoration of these ecosystems can help to minimise a sixth great extinction, while enhancing local people’s resilience against climate disaster. Defending the living world and defending the climate are, in many cases, one and the same.”

You may already have caught the media coverage of this call to action today, but if not, do visit their website here to find out more.

This all couldn’t come at a better time and I warmly welcome any momentum that it is able to generate.

We know that human activities are risking climate and ecological breakdown and that these need to be addressed urgently. At the same time we know that public concern is soaring – a recent poll in Scotland, announced this week highlighted that 70% of people in Scotland support further action on climate change amid surging levels of concern and the second most common reason for concern about climate change is the threat it poses to wildlife (65%).

But the urgency and public concern is not being reflected in the political attention being given to the issue, nor the money available to tackle the challenges. The world will be reviewing our progress, or lack of it, as world leaders meet at critical UN climate and biodiversity conferences taking place next year. They need to hear how intertwined both the problems and the solutions are and the attention and investment urgently needed.  

We've shown what's possible through projects such as the Golafirst Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) project in West Africa.  As well as conserving the forest, supporting the 114 communities that surround the forest, the project aims to conserve nearly 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by keeping it both locked in the forest and soils and by adding more as the forest regenerates.

Here in the UK, these solutions are just as important. It is remarkable that we’ve been stuck for so long with a land use system dominated by the post-war narrative to prioritise food production above all else, ignoring the other roles that land and the nature it supports might play. Far too little attention has been paid to nature’s importance – not just in and of itself but also in delivering so many services to us – clean water, pollinated plants and, critically, locking up carbon for the future in soils and vegetation.

Whatever you think of Brexit, there’s no denying that we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to reshape the way we use our land if we leave the Common Agricultural Policy, or to reform it if we remain. The RSPB sees this has a huge opportunity for Natural Climate Solutions being promoted today.

That’s why over the past year we’ve been highlighting this opportunity: for peatland restoration, permanent grassland protection or woodland expansion – ensuring the right trees go in the right places of course. We have been talking to politicians and hosting events, including with the Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House. Most excitingly, we have been undertaking ground-breaking mapping work of where our wildlife-rich, carbon-rich places are.  This will be launched very soon, so watch this space!

Addressing the nature and climate crisis couldn’t be more urgent and Natural Climate Solutions have a critical role to play. If you’d like to help, there will be a Parliamentary petition you can sign in the next few days, calling for the Government to secure the political and financial commitment needed to enable nature’s recovery on a massive scale.

Securing nature’s recovery will require heroic effort: it will require strong and visionary leadership from our politicians. The debate around Brexit has shown us just how vulnerable our nature laws are. The RSPB is demanding that all future politicians are bound by a clear legal duty to secure the recovery of nature, placed at the heart of a commitment to future generations; and that we have a strong and independent watchdog in every country of the UK, that will hold governments to account for how they treat the natural environment.  We are also demanding that our politicians lead the world in arguing for a global agreement in 2020 to tackle the extinction crisis, bringing land, seas and skies back to life around the world.

Securing nature’s recovery won’t be an easy win, but we will win.

Because we must.

  • Martin, this captures the spirit of where we should be - but, as I've said elsewhere, it's a shock that so many in conservation - including RSPB programmes - effectively accept the status quo, especially where farming is concerned. It is simply rubbish that we are all going to starve if we don't increase production - but a racing certainty that we will end up killing our own citizens if we don't recognise and take action over issues like flooding. It's a difficult balancing trick between the beauty and inspiration of nature and the hard issues behind the birds - but we do need to see the revolutionary achievements of RSPB and others in coastal defence, wetland, peat restoration etc as the pioneers of the future rather than exceptional one offs. Also to recognise the money sums are on our side - peatland management isn't competing with grouse or sheep, but high tech (and no doubt hugely expensive) options like carbon capture. Perhaps one of the fundamental problems we need to recognise is that going the natural route doesn't have the same potential for private sector riches as expensive factory solutions - but then that is surely good for ordinary people, including RSPB members. 

  • Please can you supply a link to the petition mentioned above?


  • Please can you supply a link to the Petition you mention?