The United Nations warn that up to one million different species of animals and plants are facing extinction because of human activity and we only have 10 years left to bend the curve on climate change and halt biodiversity loss before impacts on human beings become dramatic.
Olivia Blake, MP for Sheffield Hallam and shadow minister for nature, water and flooding, brought together more than 30 representatives from across the city for a nature summit last week and said she hopes Sheffield will lead the way in tackling the crisis.
It followed a citywide nature emergency declaration earlier this year, backed unanimously by councillors and Nature Recovery Sheffield – a partnership of 34 organisations across the city and more than 1,200 individuals.
The summit hosted discussions around how to turn this declaration into action which will inform council work, among other things.
Ms Blake said: “It was great to have so many people with so much expertise and experience in one place for the summit, discussing actions we can take locally and nationally to turn this declaration of a nature emergency into action. I am hopeful we will be able to push this work forward with the urgency needed – as one participant said, the afternoon, whilst important, is only the first step in a long process.
“I will be lobbying in Parliament on a number of issues raised in the meeting, from funding structures which prevent organisations in our city from doing important work, to planning laws, which disempower communities to protect our wild spaces. This summit was only the beginning of our task to renew our natural environment and we will be meeting together soon to ensure this work continues.”
Councillor Terry Fox, leader of the council, said the authority will follow up on suggestions and work collaboratively to ensure action is taken.
He added: “We have to do everything, everything we can to protect Sheffield’s biodiversity, tackle the climate emergency and ensure our green spaces are serving the people in this city. Labour councillors are committed to this, but it’ll take a citywide effort and we need to ensure we take residents with us at every step of the way.”
Dan Jarvis, Sheffield City Region mayor, said nature needed to be “woven into the heart of our thinking”.
He added: “There is an obvious, urgent need to adapt our economy and society so they do not destroy the natural environment which we all depend on – not just to stop climate change but to prevent disastrous flooding, stem the loss of species and landscapes we know and love, and increase the quality of life for all of us. I warmly welcome this summit, and the wider work that groups such as the Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust are doing to protect our natural habitat.”
Liz Ballard, chief executive of Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust on behalf of Nature Recovery Sheffield, said they welcomed being a key part in the summit and look forward to finding out how they can work with city leaders to turn words into actions as soon as possible.