• Good news for World Environment Day: a boost for nature conservation in the UK's Overseas Territories

    We all need some good news especially on World Environment Day.  So, I am delighted to share some excellent news about a boost for nature conservation in the UK's Overseas Territories (UKOTs).  Below, my colleague Jonathan Hall, who leads our work in the UKOTs, reports on the support we have secured from the UK Government.

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    The UK Overseas Territories hold over 94% of unique British…

    • 5 Jun 2020
  • A global response to a shared crisis

    I usually spend summer half term at my wife’s family hut on the Northumberland coast.  This year was meant to be different because I was due to be in Norway with the Cairngorms Connect team – to be inspired by landscapes which are analogous to the vision we have for the Highlands.  Instead, of course, I spent a week at home.  To expand my home range, I fixed my bike and explored the Cambridgeshire countryside…

    • 1 Jun 2020
  • A round up of some good news for International Biodiversity Day

    Today is International Biodiversity Day – a chance to celebrate the millions of species with which we share this beautiful planet. 

    I have always believed in the intrinsic value of species – the right for a species to exist.  It is the primary reason why I work in conservation.  But I also know that nature is fundamental to human existence – helping to provide food, regulate our climate, provide clean water,…

    • 22 May 2020
  • Our shared agenda for a green recovery and conditions for optimism

    Last night the Prime Minister outlined the headlines of a "conditional plan" for how we might emerge from the lockdown.  We were, of course, listening very carefully and will respond to any detailed guidance that emerges from political leaders across the UK.  Our latest statement can be found here.

    While there is intense interest in how government restrictions will be lifted, we are also keen to ensure the right…

    • 11 May 2020
  • A comment on International Dawn Chorus Day in Lockdown

    Tomorrow is International Dawn Chorus Day - a day to celebrate the early morning swell of birdsong.  Even if you don’t want to get up with the birds at dawn, it’s the perfect time to throw open your windows and let the birdsong in.   

    My daughter and I ventured out at dawn this morning to our local common and we were greeted with a cacophony from blackbirds, blackcaps, chiffchaffs, wrens and robins.  It was very…

    • 2 May 2020
  • An update on the RSPB’s review of its policy on gamebird shooting (3)

    The consultation phase of the review of the RSPB’s policy on gamebird shooting has ended, so I thought it would be timely to provide an update of progress. 

    As you may recall, we are doing the review because there is growing public concern and mounting scientific evidence about the environmental impacts of the most intensive form of shooting especially driven grouse moor management (which involves shooting our native…

    • 1 May 2020
  • 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.

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    • 20 Jan 2020