Leading a sustainable sector

December 11th 2023

The RSB sets out its Climate and Nature Strategy and commits to reducing its impact on nature 

You don’t have to look far to see that the world is facing an unprecedented climate and nature emergency. The consequences of huge increases in global carbon emissions over the past 100 years are now visible across the globe, from the unprecedented wildfires in North America, the retraction of sea ice in the Arctic and the soaring temperatures in southern Europe this summer. Here in the UK the recent State of Nature report laid bare the dire situation facing British wildlife, with the UK now one of the most nature depleted countries in the world.

The Society provides impartial evidence-based advice on climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution – and the issues that arise from them, such as ecosystem collapse, increased spread of biological diseases, food insecurity and population displacement. However, if organisations such as the RSB are to deliver advice to government on our expectations in this area, we must ensure we are enacting the changes we want to see. That is why, during Biology Week 2023, the Society launched its Climate and Nature Strategy.

Leading by example

The RSB has been working on this for a number of years. While the organisation and its staff may have a relatively small environmental footprint, we represent a large number of scientists, many of whom work closely with the natural world, and should be leading by example. After seeking the views of RSB Council and the Education and Science Policy Committee, we aimed to develop a document that would provide a long-term plan for our progress in this area, with challenging but achievable commitments.

One of these is to become a carbon neutral organisation ahead of national government targets. This will focus on our scope 1 and 2 emissions at first (which include things such as the energy used in our office), with the aim of moving on to scope 3 emissions (such as staff travel, and purchased goods and services) as soon as possible. Like many organisations, scope 3 emissions will likely be the biggest portion of our emissions and we are determined to not simply avoid these issues but rather face them head on.

While reducing our global carbon footprint is vital, it mustn’t be done in a way that can produce negative effects elsewhere. For example, planting monocultures of the same tree species as a way of offsetting emissions can have a damaging effect on pre-established ecosystems. Our strategy ensures that we also consider how to reduce our impact on the environment in terms of biodiversity and pollution.

We must also ensure that the needs and opinions of our staff are considered as we embed and implement these policies.

A key focus when developing the strategy was transparency. We hope to be clear and open with our environmental progress, communicating with our members about the actions we are taking and our future ambitions. It is one thing to produce a strategy, and another to implement it, and it is by the latter that real, tangible progress is made. We are also mindful that simply offsetting emissions is neither sustainable nor suitable compared with addressing these issues at their source. As with any organisation undertaking this process, we will no doubt face obstacles and challenges along the way, but through open communication with both our members and our staff we hope to overcome these in a way that works for everyone involved.

Knowledge hub

Furthermore, we are by no means experts in this, and no doubt many of our individual members and Member Organisations will be further along this journey than we are. That is why we don’t aim to lecture on this subject, but instead will provide a platform for knowledge exchange and information on these issues. The area of carbon accounting and emissions reduction is often complicated and multifaceted, and we hope to play a part in addressing this and helping more people and organisations improve too.

To address climate change and biodiversity loss requires urgent action by governments and big polluters. However, individuals and smaller organisations should not stand by and wait. We all have a part to play in driving positive environmental change. I would strongly encourage you to design your own climate and nature strategy, and see what you or your organisation can do in driving towards a greener, nature-friendly future.

Download the RSB’s full Nature and Climate Strategy here

Kieran Woof MRSB is the RSB’s senior science policy officer on plant and environmental sciences