The first was our State of the World’s Birds report, which highlighted that one in eight bird species in the world (1,409 species total) is threatened with extinction, that an estimated three billion birds have been lost in North America alone since 1970, and a further 600 Millions have been lost in the European Union since 1980. The report details the major pressures facing our wild bird populations, including agricultural expansion and intensification, which affects 73% of all threatened species; unsustainable logging and forest management, which affects 50%; and the climate crisis, which affects 34%.
The second was our joint Wildlife Comeback Report, which was a collaboration between Rewilding Europe, the European Bird Census Council, ZSL and BirdLife International. This showed that despite the broader picture of biodiversity declines across all taxa, some species are bucking the trend and bouncing back. The report profiled 50 species (including European bison, Dalmatian pelican, black stork and griffon vulture), all of whose populations have recovered. By understanding the key reasons for their recovery, it is possible to develop a recipe for future success: enhanced wildlife conservation, habitat protection and restoration, conservation efforts over many, many years, all backed by sound legislation, long-term funding, and brilliant people.
These conservation successes are to be celebrated. They give us confidence that we can still achieve a great deal in the coming years.
However, we should also have no illusions that this will be easy, because as the State of the World’s Birds report shows, these success stories are set against a backdrop of decline and we know things are getting harder : With a growing world population and skyrocketing consumption, particularly among the better off, the pressure on wildlife will only mount and threaten even more species unless we radically transform our food, energy and industrial systems while protecting and strengthening existing wildlife laws.
While the EU Commission has proposed world-leading nature restoration law (including a commitment that 20% of land and sea surface must undergo restoration measures) that we have campaigned so hard for, I am concerned that many national governments are on our continent, too, want to hit the brakes or, worse, reverse gear. For example, some national agriculture ministers across the EU are trying to end the existing Farm to Fork strategy, while in England the government is threatening to scrap wildlife protection regulations.
Much of the last decade has been spent fighting misguided and short-term interventions by our continent’s politicians who were willing to forego crucial wildlife conservation measures in order to achieve the economic growth they failed to achieve. It seems that despite evidence showing that wildlife laws worked and that, scare, people like wildlife and want more of it, politicians remain willing to toss wildlife laws under the bus when things get tough.
While civil society will continue to roll up its sleeves to save our endangered wildlife, we must continue to speak out to protect what we have—including vital wildlife laws and funding—while advocating for greater transformation of our economy.
The European Green Deal is the right attempt at such a radical transformation. Not only do we need it to succeed, but we need other governments on our continent and around the world that are just as ambitious.
So when the 117 national BirdLife partners from around the world came together last month to celebrate our centenary in Cambridge, we agreed on a new strategy that outlines not only action to protect species and sites, but also action to improve Mobilize society to help transform the economic system so that our increasing prosperity is no longer dependent on the exploitation of nature or people.
We intend to find new ways to make politicians aspire to do good for nature and demonstrate the political pain of causing harm. This is the decade for action, and we stand ready to do what is necessary. We want to show that we have the power of many.
This blog is part of a series that I am writing. Do you have any thoughts about what I wrote? It would be great to hear your views. Tweet me – my handle is @MartinBirdLife.