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Restore Nature Now demonstration sees UK NFPs

Geraldine Kendall Adams, Conservation groups and climate campaigners unite to save natural world, Museums Association, 25 June 2024

National Trust among the charities backing the Restore Nature Now movement.

 

More than 60,000 people attended the Restore Nature Now march. © Mark Chilvers

The National Trust was among a range of conservation charities that came together with activist groups such as Extinction Rebellion over the weekend to call for urgent action to tackle the climate and ecological crisis.

Joined by celebrities including wildlife presenter Chris Packham and actress Emma Thompson, the Restore Nature Now demonstration saw an estimated 60,000 people march to London’s Parliament Square to demand that all political parties prioritise nature and climate.

The Restore Nature Now demonstration was organised by a group of non-governmental organisations, grassroots groups and individuals, including the National Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Wildlife Trusts, World Wildlife Foundation UK, Friends of the Earth, Woodland Trust, Rewilding Britain, Wildlife and Countryside Link, Plantlife and Extinction Rebellion.

The march is believed to have been the biggest gathering of people for nature and climate that the UK has seen.

The campaigners have issued five challenges to politicians on the action needed for nature:

  • A pay rise for nature – the nature and climate-friendly farming budget doubled.
  • Make polluters pay – new rules to make polluters contribute to nature and climate recovery.
  • More space for nature – to expand and improve protected areas, and ensure public land and National Parks contribute more to recovery.
  • A right to a healthy environment – an Environmental Rights Bill, which would drive better decisions for nature, improve public health and access to high-quality nature.
  • Fair and effective climate action – increasing home energy efficiency, supporting active travel and public transport, and replacing polluting fossil fuels with affordable renewables.

 

Harry Bowell, director of land and nature at the National Trust, said: “With the upcoming election we are at a pivotal moment where whoever forms the next government can decide to take bold action to prioritise nature’s recovery. The benefits will be vast; not only for our landscapes and wildlife, but improve our health and wellbeing while benefiting business and the economy too.”

The event marks a shift in approach among conservation charities towards mobilising their members to demand action.

It comes after one of Extinction Rebellion’s founders, Roc Sandford, criticised conservation bodies last year for “not pulling their weight on using the tremendous power they’ve got just through their membership numbers to drive policy change”.

The conservation sector is also becoming more proactive in pursuing change through the courts. The National Trust is among a coalition of charities that launched a legal bid earlier this month to force the incoming UK Government to meet existing environmental targets.

The group is seeking a judicial review to end what it described as the “culture of non-compliance with environmental law”.

Referring to the Conservative government’s target to halt species loss by 2030, the National Trust’s director Hilary McGrady said earlier this month: “Six years from that deadline, the UK is still one of the most nature-depleted countries on earth.”

However she said the decline could be reversed if the incoming UK Government acted “promptly and energetically”.

“We feel passionately that the nature crisis is of such an extent that none of the political parties as it stands at the moment are taking the challenge seriously and so we are here to really ask them to think about that and show us their response,” said McGrady.

The National Trust has also backed the i newspaper’s manifesto to “save Britain’s rivers”, and is calling on political parties to sign up to pledges on tackling sewage spills and improving river health.

Meanwhile environmental protests are continuing to take place at museums and heritage sites. Following a protest at Stonehenge by Just Stop Oil last Thursday, a further demonstration took place the following day at Bodiam Castle in East Sussex, which is managed by the National Trust.

The protest saw campaigners from Fossil Free London unfurl a banner at the castle calling on the National Trust to stop banking with Barclays due to the bank’s investments in fossil fuels.