This blog is written by Rory Crawford, RSPB’s Lead on the People’s Assembly for Nature.
The RSPB co-commissioned the participatory process that led to the People’s Plan, but we are also actors with power in the system – what will we do differently, what do we think of the Plan and what do we call on others to do?
The People’s Plan for Nature was published some weeks ago now – I wrote on this blog around that time about why this is a unique and powerful initiative for three large conservation NGOs (RSPB, National Trust and WWF) to be involved in. This is a process so different to what we normally do, and all the more powerful for it. It shows that people from all walks of life really care about nature, understand that it is fundamental to our health and wellbeing, and want to see tangible, urgent and fair action to protect and renew it. Stick that in yer rolling 24-hour news agenda and smoke it!
But the Plan isn’t simply about demonstrating that people care, it’s a strong collection of 26 Calls to Action, that demand responses, discussion and – obviously – action. While the majority of the calls are aimed at governments (primarily national but also local) and businesses, NGOs are also identified as actors with power in the system, and there are actions allocated to us. The RSPB have therefore looked at all the Calls to Action and published a detailed response here, as have the National Trust and WWF – and we’re calling on others to respond too.
Responding to the Plan required a different mindset from that which we might usually adopt – this wasn’t us responding to a consultation on a government policy proposal that we have concerns over. You might characterise that as a ‘politely shirty’ mindset (my sympathies to the civil servants reading my responses to Scotland’s Marine Protected Area consultations circa 2011). The People’s Plan represents the considerations of a real cross-section of society tasked with identifying the actions needed to protect and renew nature by 2030. As such, it calls us to pause and reflect on our own approach – not only in response to the calls directed at us, but in how we campaign and develop policy on the issues, what we prioritise, the language we use and how we consider people and communities.
I’m not going to dive into the detail of our response here – the overall message is one of strong support for the Calls to Action – but the Plan did prompt the RSPB to commit to some headline actions with a policy and advocacy slant that are worth pulling out.
The citizens identified that the transition to a future where nature is properly protected and renewed had to be fair, with clear consideration of the impact on livelihoods. We think this is an area our sector needs to work more on – so we have committed to bring this perspective into our work much more strongly and propose that, a year from now, we bring forward examples where we have incorporated ‘just transition’ thinking into our policy development for scrutiny. This has started in some areas already – RSPB Northern Ireland have been among the voices calling for a Just Agricultural Transition which is now embedded in climate legislation. There is much more to do to ensure this legislation really delivers for the climate, nature and farmers but it is work to build on!
The overall process of the assembly demonstrates the value and power of bringing a diverse range of people’s voices into the discussion. In recognition of this, we have committed to creating ‘People’s Panels’ with diverse groups of citizens to work with us on advocacy and campaigns for nature’s renewal. This ought to make our work more responsive to the needs and priorities of communities.
These are just a couple of the headline actions we intend to take, and of course, we don’t expect things to change overnight. But it’s so clear we need to do things differently to turn the tide on the nature crisis. That’s why we’re calling on others – national governments, local authorities, businesses, other NGOs and community groups to read the Plan and publish their own responses in the spirit of self-reflection and taking up the actions that fellow citizens have called for. Brilliantly, the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission have already taken up the mantle of leading a National Conversation on Food, linked to one of the Calls to Action in the Plan.
We’d love to see more of this – a real collaborative from across society – this is how we turn the Plan into action and commitments. And for those writing political party manifestos, it’s a free cheat sheet for a bunch of popular, effective ways to tackle the nature crisis!
You can add your name in support of the People’s Plan for Nature here.