My passion for wildlife was stimulated in my teenage years, mainly thanks to my Mum (a biology teacher) who made me look at the world differently and being inspired by writers such as Paul Colinvaux. This early interest developed into biological research in my 20s, when I did practical conservation work in places such as the Comores and Mongolia.
Today, any free time I have I spend pottering around the flatlands of East Anglia or escaping to our hut on the Northumberland coast looking for wildlife and castles with my wife and children.
I studied Biological Sciences at Oxford and Conservation at UCL, and worked at Wildlife and Countryside Link before spending five years as Conservation Director at Plantlife.
I joined the RSPB as Head of Government Affairs in 2004, became Head of Sustainable Development in 2006, before becoming Conservation Director in 2011.
Sometime before the 1997 election I remember listening to Michael Meacher MP, the then shadow Environment Minister, say "I have spent the last 18 years waking up wondering what I would say that day. I look forward to waking up and thinking what I will do today."
Dropping in to various events at the Labour Party conference in Manchester this week, I have, inevitably, heard a lot of talking. I imagine that Labour politicians are all looking forward to the day (for them, preferably, 8 May 2015) when the wake up and can do things.
What they say is, however, important as this becomes the platform on which they will fight the General Election and if elected, it will be their actions on which they will be judged. Some have been clearer than others about their intentions.
Here are some nuggets...
...Shadow Environment Secretary Maria Eagle MP said in two separate speeches: "People want the recovery of our natural environment rather than its non-stop degradation and decline" and "We need a step change in nature conservation". How? We say through a Nature and Wellbeing Act.
...Shadow Environment Minister Angela Smith MP said "I want to see an environmentally responsible shooting industry". How? We say through licensing grouse shooting.
...Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband MP said "There is no more important issue for me when I think about my children's generation than tackling global Climate Change”. How? Here, the Leader does have some commitments. He talked about decarbonising electricity supplies by 2030, creating one million new green jobs part and introducing an ambitious new energy efficiency programme.
This is good stuff. Shame he said nothing on nature, perhaps he was waiting for his shadow Defra team to firm up their plans.
Meanwhile, over in New York, the Prime Minister was also talking. He was one of many who made strong speeches on climate change at the UN Summit. He was able to say what he has done at home and want he wants. I've pasted a transcript of his speech below - you can be the judge of his record on climate change.
These statements follow the largest ever mobilisation on climate change when on Sunday 675,000 people took part in 2,700 events all round the world - orchestrated by the phenomenal (and still new) campaigning machine Avaaz.
The reason Mr Cameron is in New York, is that he is joining other world leaders, to revitalise negotiations on a global climate deal. Thanks to the marches and the growing size and breadth of those calling for climate action, they could not have had a clearer public mandate for bold leadership.
I hope that what we are witnessing is the beginning of a realisation in the political world that urgent and serious climate action is not only good for the climate and the economy, but for politics too. People care about far more than GDP – we care about wildlife, our environment, and the state of the planet that we will hand over to our children too – and we expect our politicians to too.
What they say is important, but ultimately, it is what they do that counts.
What did you think about the words from the Labour Party? And what did you think about Mr Cameron's speech?
It would be great to hear your views.
What Mr Cameron said in New York...
Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing our world. And it is not just a threat to the environment. It is also a threat to our national security, to global security, to poverty eradication and to economic prosperity.And we must agree a global deal in Paris next year. We simply cannot put this off any longer.And I pay tribute to Secretary General Ban for bringing everyone together here today and for putting real focus on this issue.Now my country, the United Kingdom, is playing its part.In fact, it was Margaret Thatcher who was one of the first world leaders to demand action on climate change, right here at the United Nations twenty-five years ago.Now since then, the UK has cut greenhouse gas emissions by one quarter. We have created the world’s first Climate Change Act. And as Prime Minister, I pledged that the government I lead would be the greenest government ever. And I believe we've kept that promise.We've more than doubled our capacity in renewable electricity in the last four years alone. We now have enough solar to power almost a million UK homes. We have the world’s leading financial centre in carbon trading. And we have established the world’s first green investment bank. We’ve invested £1 billion--$1.5 billion--in Carbon Capture and Storage. And we've said no to any new coal without Carbon Capture and Storage. We are investing in all forms of lower carbon energy including shale gas and nuclear, with the first new nuclear plant coming on stream for a generation.Now, as a result of all that we are doing, we are on track to cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. And we are playing our role internationally as well, providing nearly £4 billion of climate finance over five years as part of our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our Gross National Income on aid. And we are one of the only countries in the advanced world to do that and to meet our promises.We now need the whole world though to step up to deliver a new, ambitious, global deal which keeps the 2 degree goal within reach. I'll be pushing European Union leaders to come to Paris with an offer to cut emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030.We know from Copenhagen that we are not just going to turn up in Paris and reach a deal. We need to work hard now to raise the level of ambition and to work through the difficult issues.To achieve a deal we need all countries, all countries to make commitments to reduce emissions. Our agreement has to be legally binding, with proper rules and targets to hold each other to account.We must provide support to those who need it, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable.It is completely unrealistic to expect developing countries to forgo the high carbon route to growth that so many Western countries enjoyed, unless we support them to achieve green growth. Now, if we get this right there need not be a trade-off between economic growth and reducing carbon emissions.We need to give business the certainty it needs to invest in low carbon. That means fighting against the economically and environmentally perverse fossil fuel subsidies which distort free markets and rip off taxpayers.It means championing green free trade, slashing tariffs on things like solar panels.And it means giving business the flexibility to pick the right technologies for their needs.In short we need a framework built on green growth not green tape.As political leaders we have a duty to think long-term. When offered clear scientific advice, we should listen to it.When faced with risks, we should insure against them.And when presented with an opportunity to safeguard the long-term future of our planet and our people, we should seize it.So I would implore everyone to seize this opportunity over the comingyear. Countries like the United Kingdom have taken the steps necessary. We've legislated. We've acted. We've invested. And I urge other countries to take the steps that they need to as well so we canreach this historic deal.Thank you.
The statements you report Martin, from the Labour Party Conference are encouraging. As you say it is a pity Mr Ed.Miliband said nothing about the need to help nature and stem biodiversity loss, but at least his shadow ministers are being positive in that direction. The messages about the need to license grouse moors and the need for a "Nature Bill" seem to be getting through and I think the RSPB are to be very much congratulated for this. Well done.
So, we seem to have a committment from both the Lib Dems and Labour for a Bill for Nature after the General Election. Will we have a similar meangful committment from the Tories? I am not sure at all.
However in the end, as you say Martin, actions will speak much louder than words.