Bristol is the first major city to declare an ecological emergency
The move has come in response to escalating threats to wildlife and ecosystems, after a worrying decline in numbers and diversity of wildlife in the city and more widely in recent years, with 15% of British wildlife now at risk of extinction.
The declaration was jointly made by Marvin Rees, mayor of Bristol, and Ian Barrett, CEO of Avon Wildlife Trust, at a city council cabinet meeting on 4 February. It is currently supported by six city partners.
It builds on the declaration of a climate emergency in 2018 and recognises these two threats to our wellbeing. The mayor has asked that the One City Environment and Sustainability Board work with the council and other city partners on a plan setting out the actions that the council and partners will take to support and add to the existing initiatives which are already taking place.
Priorities will include looking at ways to stop wildlife habitats from being destroyed, managing land in a sustainable way that is sympathetic to wildlife and creating and caring for wildlife-rich spaces in every part of the city and across the region. It is hoped that by declaring an ecological emergency, it will kick-start a response from the whole city. Action is needed at all levels, from central government, through to local partnerships and communities and individuals.
The One City Plan already includes an ambition to double wildlife in Bristol, to stop the decline in wildlife and start to restore what has been lost. “It is not too late to start the recovery of our wildlife,” said Marvin Rees. “We must work together to grasp this last chance and put things right for nature and wildlife in our city.
“This declaration will provide a focus for the whole city to come together and take positive action. Our commitment to this will extend beyond parks and green spaces. We need our buildings, streets and open spaces to support wildlife and create a more nature friendly city, and we need new developments to do the same.
“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. We can’t solve this issue over-night but if we make sure we consider the ecology when we build each new development, and take major city decisions, then we can start to make major progress.
“In developing this action plan we will work 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.”
As the home of the BBC Natural History Unit, Bristol is a leading centre for wildlife expertise. Many organisations across the city are working on wildlife conservation projects to protect and restore wildlife in our city. In making this declaration the mayor and partners recognise that more can, and should, be done.
In conjunction with the city’s declaration of a climate emergency, today’s announcement recognises the essential role nature plays in society and the economy. From clean water and air, to food, timber, climate change, flood protection, these statements of intent aim to protect our wildlife and environment, and deliver the wider benefits of a green, nature-rich city into the everyday lives of the people of Bristol.
Ian Barrett, chief executive at Avon Wildlife Trust, added: “The twin threats facing our natural world and our own lives – climate breakdown and ecological emergency – are now felt everywhere including in Bristol as we witness dwindling wildlife and the loss of wild spaces. We can’t wait for national governments or international bodies to lead the way – we have to show that through collective action we can make Bristol a city where wildlife can thrive and the natural world can flourish.
“This is about stopping the loss forever of much-loved species which were once common in gardens, parks, waterside and green spaces across the city – swifts, starlings, hedgehogs and butterflies. But it’s about more than that, because we face losing all that wildlife abundance and a thriving natural world provides us with – clean air, clean water, healthy soils, food crops, natural flood defences and beautiful spaces to enjoy. All of us – from individuals to large city organisations – can now take action and from planting a single window box for pollinators, to a whole workforce effort for nature, all actions are transformational.”