Bristol declares an ecological emergency

Today, with city partners, we  declared an Ecological Emergency– making us the first city in the UK to do so. This declaration will provide a focus for the whole city to come together and take positive action on the nature and wildlife emergency.   

The figures are shocking. 15% of British wildlife is now at risk of extinction. In Bristol, swifts and starlings have been virtually wiped out, with recorded numbers dropping by 96% since 1994

Priorities will include looking at ways to stop wildlife habitats from being destroyed, managing land in a sustainable way and creating and caring for wildlife-rich spaces in every part of the city.

It is our hope that this announcement will kick-start the response that is required to deal with the scale of the challenges that face us, providing a focus for the whole city to come together and take positive action.

Action is needed at all levels, from central Government, through to local partnerships, communities and individuals. In recognition of this, we will be working with our colleagues across the West of England and with Government to seek to secure the policies, funding and powers we need to restore nature nationally and locally.

Building on the city’s declaration of a climate emergency in 2018, today’s announcement acknowledges the essential role nature plays in society and the economy, from clean water and air, food, timber and flood protection.

Pioritising the protection of wildlife is motivated by economics as much as the ecological need.   The World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risks Report ranks biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse as one of the top five threats humanity will face in the next ten years. Over half the world’s total GDP is dependent on nature and its services through impacts on operations, supply chains, and markets  – that’s $44 trillion.

We are not starting from scratch on this issue. The One City Plan already includes an ambition to double wildlife in Bristol, which demonstrates the ambition of the city to stop the decline in wildlife and start to restore what has been lost.

Some examples of the work we are doing include:

  • MyWildCity, a 3-year project led by Avon Wildlife Trust project with Council support to raise the profile of eight wildlife sites in neighbourhoods across the city;
  • Replant Bristol, a multi-stakeholder group championing the current One City Plan’s ‘double tree canopy by 2046’ target;
  • Bristol Green Capital Partnership have chosen Nature as one of its five workstreams;
  • The West of England Nature Partnership is working on a regional Nature Recovery Network as part of a national initiative, which supports biodiversity by joining up wildlife-rich landscapes.

As a council, we are committed to playing our part. My ask is that you do yours too. If you’ve got a garden, let your grass grow, build a bug hotel or pond, or let a patch go wild to support more wildlife. Maybe you could work with your neighbours to create wildlife rich green spaces in your local area. And if you’re not green-fingered, you can still have an impact by reducing your consumption of products produced in ways that damage wildlife habitats worldwide.

We know that there will be times when this intention comes into conflict with other aims and goals, but we endeavour meet these challenges with practical compromise and pragmatic approach to do our best for Bristol’s wildlife.

It is not too late to start the recovery of our wildlife. We must work together to grasp this last chance and put things right for nature and wildlife in our city. This is about how we responsibly build and develop the city so humans don’t threaten wildlife and instead support them to grow alongside us.

Thank you to the Avon Wildlife Trust, We the Curious, the SS Great Britain Trust, the University of the West of England, Bristol Zoological Society, NHS Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG, North Bristol NHS Trust, University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust and the Future Economy Network for their support.

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