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When the going gets tough, good governments take action

Far-reaching action to help wildlife adapt to climate change must be required of all government departments in legislation this year, the RSPB says in a major new report.

Launched to highlight the issue at political party conferences, the report says pledges of funds should back these guarantees and be laid out in the government’s Climate Change Bill, which is expected in the Queen’s Speech in November.

Crucial to wildlife will be measures to help vulnerable species relocate as their existing homes become too warm, too dry or too wet, the report, Climate change, wildlife and adaptation, is warning.

Species already at risk include lapwing and redshank and other wading birds in the south-east, where parched summers will dry out their wetland habitats; and migrating birds such as pied flycatchers, which are already arriving too late for the glut of insect food their young need. Ring ouzels – the mountain blackbird – are also struggling because dry ground in the uplands in late summer means the birds are finding too little food.

Ruth Davis, the RSPB’s Head of Climate Change and co-author of the report, said: “The biggest long-term threat facing wildlife is climate change. Many species won’t adapt quickly enough unless we help them and if we don’t help them, we could lose them.

“We must improve existing habitats and reduce the impact of persecution, pollution and development on existing wildlife populations.

“Then we must create new habitats into which wildlife can move. For some species, this will mean more hedgerows, ponds or ditches. Others will need new, bigger heathlands, wetlands or grasslands in areas not now managed for environmental benefit.”

Only four per cent of land in England is primarily managed for nature conservation. The RSPB wants 20 per cent of land in the UK to be managed with help for wildlife as a core objective, and says all land in the UK should provide at least some environmental gains.

The RSPB is contributing by doubling by 2030 the 340,000-acre area it manages in the UK and next week, will announce major plans for climate change adaptation measures on a new site in England.

Its report adds that another £300 million will be needed every year to meet the 1,149 government targets for the recovery of threatened plants, birds and other animals.

Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB’s Conservation Director, said: “Helping wildlife adapt is not just about helping wildlife, but about helping people as well. Wildlife and wild places produce a myriad of benefits including job creation, better flood defences and improved water quality.

“But none of this can be put off until next year, or the next government or the next international treaty. The most impressive, most important and most profound mark this government could make on history would be to take up the challenge of climate change. Helping wildlife adapt to climate change is a vital part of that challenge.”

Cath Harris | alfa
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