Last week was a good week for the work of the RSPB.
Last Wednesday, in collaboration with more than 50 other organisations, we successfully completed the first phase of launching the State of Nature 2016 reports.
The reports set out how species are faring, the main factors affecting populations and some of the great work conservation organisations are already involved in. Through State of Nature we are setting the political agenda for nature conservation, now in the face of the challenges arising from the proposed departure of the UK from the EU.
The RSPB has played the leading role in a partnership of more than 50 research and conservation organisations to produce and launch these reports. I cannot emphasise enough what a terrific collective effort across our organisation this has been.
In Edinburgh 125 guests, including MSPs, civil servants, agency staff, land managers and NGOs heard Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, re-commit the Scottish Government to actions aimed at meeting the 2020 Aichi targets. I was equally pleased to hear that there was a compelling call from two young Scots on the importance to young people of protecting and enhancing biodiversity and the value of connections to nature.
In London, we were reminded by Sir David Attenborough of the importance of our global commitments for nature, and that the natural environment is the most valuable thing that we have in this country. Trevor Dines from Plantlife inspired us with a compelling case from improving agriculture policy. Andrea Leadsom MP, Secretary of State for the Environment welcomed the report as a reminder that there is still much to do. At the end of a lively debate on the future of nature conservation post EU referendum, Orlagh McLaughlin from the Northern Ireland Young Campaigners made the whole audience sit up and take notice by quoting Seamus Heaney and urging us to campaign more effectively.
State of Nature has received widespread media coverage including national radio, TV and press. In the spirit of partnership, interviews were shared among the State of Nature partners. Rarely has such a large group of conservation groups come together – more than twice as many as for the first State of Nature. It’s very notable that the feedback from across the partnership has been excellent – a credit to all the hard, often unseen, work which goes into making coalition working successful.
The UK State of Nature 2016 includes the UK Overseas Territories and it is great news that the UK and several UK Overseas Territory Governments have jointly announced that more than two million square kilometres of British waters will be protected for future generations. This vast area of sea includes coral reefs, some of most pristine tropical marine systems, and critical oceanic islands such as Ascension, Gough and Henderson that are the focus of RSPB action. This far-reaching announcement is another example that even in these challenging times, we go far beyond documenting declines and can help deliver real progress for saving nature.
Our own response to the State of Nature has to be to redouble our hope, determination and commitment. Our task has never been easy – but the passion, energy and dedication shown by all of you tells me that we can, and we will, do it!
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