Nature protection

Our goal is to protect and restore nature in the UK in the most strategic manner possible, safeguarding the best sites for nature and preventing further declines of wild birds.

Sites

Juvenile black-tailed godwits on estuary

Many of our most important places for wildlife are protected as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (Areas of Special Scientific Interest in Northern Ireland). Some of them also form part of a network of internationally important protected sites – Special Protection Areas, Special Areas of Conservation and Ramsar sites.

We work to ensure that the right places get statutory designation, both on land and at sea, and that once designated, they are managed in the right way so that nature is protected. We will hold governments and statutory nature conservation bodies in all parts of the UK to account for their role in designating and managing protected sites, including how their condition is monitored. We will also work with others so that wider protected landscapes, such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, will help to deliver nature’s recovery as well.

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Planning

Woodbrook housing

Land-use planning helps to secure sustainable development. It determines the location and design of housing, industry, retail and leisure developments and much more. It also helps to protect the countryside, and it shapes the future of where we live. Biodiversity should be integral to every part of the planning process so that everyone has the opportunity to live in, work in or visit a nature-friendly environment.

Our work is based around 12 principles of good spatial planning, including the principle that plans should contribute to sustainable development by enhancing the natural environment and ensuring that social and economic development takes place within environmental limits. We work with central and local governments, developers and other bodies to ensure that these principles are put into practice in each planning system in the UK, whether it’s through nature-friendly housing or biodiversity gain in all development.

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Saving Special Places (Casework)

Special places for wildlife are precious treasures of our natural environment. Once they are designated, they still need to be protected from damaging development. We do this by:

  • campaigning for strong laws and safeguards which protect important wildlife sites
  • speaking to governments to ensure planning policies and associated guidance promote the conservation of important sites
  • influencing strategic plans and opposing damaging schemes to ensure development proposals do not harm important wildlife sites
  • advising our supporters so they can get involved and give nature a voice
  • supporting partner organisations to protect priority sites

With areas for wildlife becoming increasingly small and fragmented all over the world, these pages show you how we are securing our natural environment - both in the UK and internationally (such as in the UK Overseas Territories) – for future generations to enjoy.

Species

Hen harrier Circus cyaneus, female in flight against blue sky, Geltsdale, Cumbria

Species have always been at the heart of the RSPB’s work. Ensuring that the right policies and regulations are in place and are being properly implemented to protect wildlife, especially endangered species, is an important part of our policy work. We work on policies dealing with the recovery of birds of prey, the reintroduction of former native species, the conservation impacts of shooting and invasive non-native species. Our Investigations team works directly to counter the illegal killing of wild birds.

An energy transition in harmony with nature

A silhouette of wind turbines against an orange sunset

Decarbonising our energy systems is vital to reach net zero; we must rapidly phase out fossil fuels and expand low carbon renewables ensuring the right technology in the right place with enough space for nature. Unfortunately, the UK’s current approach threatens both nature and net zero.

The UK Government has rightly set ambitious targets for offshore wind, but without strategic and spatial plans for our seas, this expansion risks irreversible wildlife losses. The UK is also heavily reliant on forest biomass electricity, worsening the climate crisis and threatening forests around the world. Furthermore, unproven ‘carbon capture and storage’ (CCS) technologies risk being used to justify continued emissions while proven onshore renewables lack a route to sustainable expansion.

We must find joint solutions to the climate and nature emergencies. The RSPB is calling for a well-planned energy transition which integrates action on climate and nature to ensure the expansion of on and offshore renewables in the least sensitive areas and alongside measures to revive our world. The UK must also increase ‘no regrets’ energy efficiency and reduce energy demand.

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Policy and Insight: England and Westminster

Environmental policies created in Westminster affect England, the UK, our oversea territories, and international agreements.