19 June 2024

By Emma Edwards (Head of Comms) & Georgina Chandler (Head of Policy)

Our policy and communications experts share five ways to keep nature in mind before you head to the polls

As the UK gears up for the upcoming general election, it's important to consider not just economic and social issues but also the critical matter of our environment. ZSL works hard to protect species and restore ecosystems - but climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation require urgent political action. Before you cast your vote, here are five nature-related considerations to keep in mind, along with some key questions you could ask your local election candidates.

1. Climate mitigation and adaptation

Why it matters

Climate change poses a significant threat to our global and local environment, economy, and health. The UK has signed up to global targets to tackle climate change and aims to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

As well as being a key driver of biodiversity loss, deforestation is also a major contributor to climate change – in fact if it were a country, it would be the third highest emitter in the world! What we do at home in the UK, through the food or products we buy to where we invest our money, has a footprint on ecosystems in other countries. 

Effective policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, help people and species adapt to changing climate conditions, and tackle deforestation are crucial.

How is ZSL helping?

We’re helping to tackle climate change in a range of ways including leading world leading research and our efforts to work with producers and buyers of key commodities.

Questions you could ask your local candidates

  1. What measures will you implement to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions?
  2. What plans do you have to promote renewable energy sources and phase out fossil fuels?
  3. How will you support communities affected by climate-related extreme weather events?
Mangrove forests underwater tree root system
Man planting mangrove sapling in the Philippines

2. Protection of biodiversity and natural habitats

Why it matters

The UK is home to diverse ecosystems and species, many of which are under threat from human activities. Protecting and restoring biodiversity is vital for maintaining ecological balance and ensuring the health of our natural environments. The UK Government has already made a commitment to protect 30% of our land and seas for wildlife by 2030, the next five years will be critical to ensure this is delivered.

How is ZSL helping?

We do enormous amounts of work protecting species including UK species like hazel dormice, eels, wild oysters and hedgehogs, as well as restoring ecosystems like forests and wetlands to make the world a healthier, more sustainable place for everyone. 

Questions you could ask your local candidates

  1. How will you strengthen the protection of wild spaces?
  2. What are your policies on conserving endangered species and their habitats?
  3. How will you address the issue of habitat destruction due to urbanisation and agriculture?

3. Marine conservation

Why It Matters

The health of our marine environment is critical for global biodiversity, climate regulation, and the livelihoods of millions of people. Overfishing, pollution such as from plastics, and climate change are threatening marine ecosystems, making ocean conservation a vital issue in the UK. It is important that marine ecosystems and species (such as seagrass in the UK and mangroves globally) are a government priority and receive the urgent funding and policy support they need.

How is ZSL helping?

We have a range of ocean conservation projects ranging from deep sea research to protecting sharks, skate and rays in Wales and restoring wild oysters across the UK. 

Our new project to restore seagrass meadows in the Thames estuary

Questions to ask candidates

  1. What measures will you implement to protect marine biodiversity and ecosystems?
  2. How will you address the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans?
  3. What plans do you have to promote sustainable fishing practices?
Diver deep underwater with a shoal of fish
angel shark swimming

4. Pollution control and waste management

Why it matters

Pollution, whether it's air, water, or soil, poses severe risks to human health and the environment. By 2025 there will be one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish in the world’s oceans if nothing changes. Effective waste management strategies are essential to reduce pollution and promote recycling and sustainable resource use.

How are ZSL helping?

With over 10 years of experience working on the impacts of plastic pollution on wildlife and communities, we are contributing scientific expertise, data and knowledge to drive a global treaty tackling plastic pollution, fresh from the success of our #oneless campaign to reduce single-use plastic.

Questions to ask candidates

  1. What policies will you implement to reduce plastic waste and promote recycling?
  2. How will you tackle air pollution in urban areas?
  3. What steps will you take to ensure safe and sustainable waste disposal practices?

5. Green infrastructure and urban planning

Why it matters

Two in three people will live in an urban environment by 2050. How we plan for and use our cities and urban environments is vital for nature and for people's health and wellbeing.  Green infrastructure, such as parks, green roofs, urban rewilding, community gardens and river restoration can significantly improve urban environments, making cities more resilient to climate change.

How are ZSL helping?

We’re encouraging large-scale nature recovery in urban areas and undertaking research to increase understanding of the benefits to people and wildlife. 

Read our landmark Rewilding our Cities report

Since 2004, ZSL has also been working to drastically improve the ecology and biodiversity of the Thames estuary and the wider river catchment.

Questions to ask candidates

  1. How will you integrate green infrastructure into urban planning and development?
  2. What are your plans for increasing green spaces in cities and towns?
  3. How will you champion urban river recovery?

Your vote, our moment!

Nature can’t vote, but we can! The upcoming general election is a crucial opportunity to shape the UK's environmental future. By considering these nature-related issues and challenging candidates on their environmental policies, you can help protect and restore the health and sustainability of our planet. Voting with nature in mind ensures that future generations can enjoy a healthy, thriving natural world.

On Saturday 22 June you can also show your support for nature by joining the Restore Nature Now march in London