Sheffield Should Declare an Ecological Emergency

Ecological Emergency presentation “Nature is in Trouble”

Liz Ballard, CEO of Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust

We welcomed Liz Ballard, chief executive of Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust to our January meeting. Working with Sheffield Green Parents, Sheffield FoE has launched a petition calling on Sheffield City Council to declare an ecological emergency. This was in response to concerns being expressed by the Wildlife Trusts and Liz presented the Trusts’ reasoning behind this.

Liz shared a presentation and started by highlighting the 2019 UN report on Biodiversity and the UN 20 targets for 2020 (originally established in 2010) which 6 have been partially met while the other 14 have not been met.
The Sheffield State of Nature report presents the local picture and is available on their website. She shared some specific examples where the report identifies local drivers of change. Examples include the fragmentation of ancient woodlands such as Smithy Wood, Owlthorpe Fields as a potential wildlife site if it can be protected from development, declining populations of some birds and mammals, invasive non-native species (like Japanese knotweed), disease and pests (like Ash Dieback). Climate change impacts and flooding are additional risks.
The Biodiversity COP in June 2021 will be setting future targets and there is an opportunity to influence these at national level. Locally, building on the Lawton Report, we can focus on initiatives joining up areas with different landowners which could be facilitated across the city to improve connectivity (eg mapping harvest mouse habitats). Overall plan is a nature recovery strategy including nature-based solutions and there are opportunities for FoE to contribute to this.

In response to questions, Liz discussed what the council could do and what local farmers are doing to protect environments. Opportunities for developing skilled jobs in this area to support a National Nature Service launched in July 2020 by the 53 organisations within the Wildlife Link. Liz mentioned capacity development including training opportunities (Green New Challenge Fund). Community mobilisation and engagement is a key element of the strategy (eg gardening, composting, nesting boxes); the need to engage and educate/enthuse people was discussed.

Major current campaign is the petition to the Council on tackling the Ecological Emergency which aims to get more commitment from the Council on this agenda.