United for Nature: The Restore Nature Now march

An estimated 60,000 people marched through central London to Parliament Square on Saturday in aid of stronger political action to tackle the nature and climate crisis.

Restore Nature Now
Credit: Matt Bristow photography

The march, thought to be the biggest public demonstration in the General Election run-up, was a family-friendly, legal and peaceful celebration of nature. Over 350 environmental organisations were in attendance, including mainstream organisations such as the Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust, Plantlife, WWF, National Trust, Tree Council and many other supporting charities, businesses and direct action groups – all uniting to stand up for nature.

The rally also included celebrities and campaigners such as Emma Thompson, Judi Dench, Chris Packham, Steve Backshall, Dr Amir Khan, some of whom took to the stage to talk about the state of UK nature and the political action needed for change.

The march sent a clear signal that a vast part of the UK population are not only concerned for the status of nature but are adamant to see the (next) government take bold(er) steps to see the biodiversity crisis restored. Tipped to win the next election, Labour isn’t providing campaigners with much confidence as there’s widespread dismay at the lack of action for nature in their manifesto. Mark Avery, a co-founder of Wild Justice explained that even though the manifesto is good on energy and climate change, it’s severely lacking on the subject of nature, wildlife, the countryside and farming.

The campaigners supporting the Restore Nature Now march issued five key 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.
  • Environment groups are encouraging members of the public to get involved and raise nature and climate issues with political candidates during the election

Actor and campaigner Emma Thompson said: “It was incredibly powerful to see so many different individuals, groups and campaigners coming together to demand that our politicians give the priority needed to nature and climate. Without radical action our natural world will continue to decline and that is a crisis that will affect us all. This is a major moment for nature and a major moment for politics. The big question is, will the next administration heed the demands of people in the UK and Restore Nature Now?”

Naturalist and explorer Steve Backshall said: “With many UK species on the path to extinction, our rivers becoming a pollution highway and the future of our climate at a crucial crossroads, the next Government needs to put the UK on the right track for the natural world. The Restore Nature Now march and its thousands of supporters have sent a clear signal to all politicians that this General Election must be a nature and climate election. The public wants it, UK wildlife needs it, and the next generation deserves it.”

Chris Packham, TV broadcaster and environmental campaigner said: “We have stood up and spoken, we have shouted loudly and clearly about the imperative need to restore nature. This has been a moment when our next Government must listen and act so the UK will finally properly address our nature and climate crises. We’ve heard enough warm words and seen too broken political promises while our beautiful natural world has continued to be destroyed. It’s now time for the next government to take green action and not leave nature in the red. And the first true test will be what we hear in the first 100 days of power.”

Daze Aghaji of Extinction Rebellion, said: “Thousands of people have taken to the streets en masse in a hugely powerful moment for our natural world. Seeing this many organisations and people from different walks of life come together for nature shows how important this is to everyone. This isn’t just a one organisation, or one community, or one generation issue. This is an emergency that affects us all – in the UK and around the globe. Being here today, you can see just how important this is to the British public. Let’s make sure our politicians get it and make this a top priority.”

Beccy Speight, Chief Executive of the RSPB said: “Species from Avocets to whales and spaces from oceans to national parks have been championed at the march and it has been truly inspiring to see so many people stand up for nature and climate. With one in six species at risk of being lost from our shores, the natural world needs a strong voice now more than ever. There is definite hope that we can turn things around: while we know the threats, we also know so many of the solutions. But we simply aren’t acting fast enough or at a big enough scale to tackle the nature and climate crisis. We need to see urgent action and a much stronger commitment to restore nature at scale from politicians of all parties, because no species, including us, can afford to wait any longer.”

Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts said: “The devastating effects of climate change and nature loss affect every single one of us. We need nature to be restored and we need to act fast. That’s why thousands of people have united today to demand action from the next government. Our recent poll revealed that 79% of the public think that nature is important for our well-being and economic prosperity. With an election imminent, this is a critical moment if we want future generations to enjoy the thrill of birdsong, the buzz of pollinators, sustainable agriculture, a healthy economy, clean air and clean water. There’s still time for positive change and to Restore Nature Now!”