Government and Non-Government Organisations Concerned with the Natural Environment, and Strategic Actions on Environmental Issues

 

 

 


CONTENTS

1.        A-Z of principle structures: environmental agencies and departments

2.        A-Z of landmark actions: summits, conventions and regulations

 

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1. The Principal Structures: Environmental Agencies and Departments

 

BirdLife International

A non-governmental federation of national conservation organisations spread across the world with official representation in 115 countries. In the UK its official representative is the RSPB. It pursues campaigns and programmes of action, and coordinates international policies on bird protection. It obtained an income of £ 9.2 million in 2006.

 

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Defra

A ministry of the UK Government at Whitehall established in summer 2001, run by civil servants and under the control of an elected Cabinet Minister. Responsible for British policy and regulations concerning the environment, food and rural issues. Defra provides funding to Natural England; also to the Natural Environment Research Council, which distributes it to UK universities and institutes for research on the environment, training and environmental surveying and monitoring. The main priorities of Defra are to expand the rural economy, to support sustainable development and environmental protection, to ensure food security, and to advise and legislate against animal cruelty and threats to wildlife. The Rural Development Programme of the Defra pays for the Environmental Stewardship Scheme, which is the Government's principal scheme for conserving and improving the countryside, through grants to farmers for using more traditional farming methods. The four countries of the UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) each have their own country strategies for biodiversity and the environment developing on policies contained in the 2011 Natural Environment White Paper. For England, Defra's policy to protect biodiversity and ecosystems implements its 'Biodiversity 2020' route map to stopping biodiversity loss on land and at sea. Progress with this strategy is being monitored by means of headline indicators that track sustainable development in the same way that economic indices keep track of the way the economy is performing. The indicators include a suite of continuously updated indices of the state of UK biodiversity. The Department's press releases are available on the Internet.

 

Environment Agency of England and Wales

A non-departmental public body established by the Environment Act 1995 and sponsored by the Defra. It has a broad remit to improve air, land and water quality as part of the Government's commitment to sustainable development. Particular responsibilities include control of industrial pollution and wastes, and regulation and management of the water environment. It is responsible for maintaining a continuously updated record of environmental quality, accessible to public scrutiny.

 

European Commission

The executive body of the European Union, whose main task is to initiate European Union policies. EU nature conservation policy falls within the remit of its Environment Directorate-General, and is based on the implementation of three pieces of legislation: the European Community Habitats Directive, the European Community Birds Directive, and CITES. European Union funding of nature protection is channelled through its 'LIFE' fund.

 

Food and Agricultural Organisation: FAO

Founded in October 1945 with a mandate to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, to improve agricultural productivity, and to better the condition of rural populations. Today it is the largest autonomous agency within the United Nations system, with 180 Member Nations and a budget of US$650 million. A specific priority is encouraging sustainable agriculture and rural development, a long-term strategy for the conservation and management of natural resources.

 

Forestry Commission

The Government Body responsible for protecting and expanding Britain's forests and woodlands and increasing their value to society and to the environment. The Forestry Commission manages over 1 million hectares of land, and it administers the Woodland Grant Scheme, which assists with creation of new woodlands and management of existing woodlands. Very few woodlands in Britain are planted or managed without some form of grant aid. For existing woodlands, grants are paid for management and improvement, and also for restocking after felling or wind-blow and for the exclusion of stock.

 

Friends of the Earth

An international network of environmental pressure groups, represented in 61 countries and largely funded by individual donations (>90% of income). Its aims are to preserve and restore the earth's ecological, cultural and ethnic diversity through public participation and democratic decision making; to achieve equal access to resources and to promote environmentally sustainable development. Founded in the UK in 1971 with a campaign against Schweppe's non-returnable bottles, it has lobbied against nuclear reactors, against the sale of whale products and the import of tiger skins, and has conducted campaigns to stop ozone depletion, destruction of rain forests and climate change. This organisation is very coy about its finances, but the UK branch obtained an income of £ 5.5 million in 2006.

 

Greenpeace International

A pressure group, founded in 1971 with offices in 32 countries, including Greenpeace UK in Britain. It runs a fleet of ships and a research station in Antarctica. Its stated aims are to protect biodiversity, prevent pollution, end nuclear threats and promote peace. Its first campaign was to bring public pressure against American nuclear testing. It has also lobbied to stop commercial whaling and trade in toxic waste, and for banning of CFC gases. It has been particularly successful in using direct non-violent action to bring its concerns to the attention of the international media. The sinking of its flagship Rainbow Warrior in 1985, however, marked a new phase in environmental campaigning, in which protesters were killed while in pursuit of environmental causes, through direct intervention at government level. Current priorities include campaigns against oil exploration and the pvc industry, and for solar power, and for controls on genetic manipulation of food. About 80% of income is donated by its 2.65 million individual supporters; no funding is received from corporations or government organisations. Unlike many charitable organisations, Greenpeace is transparent about its finances and declared a net income for 2005 from all its offices world-wide of US$163 million (cf $130 million in 2000), including £ 3.4 million from the UK branch.

 

International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources: IUCN

Initiated in 1948 as the World Conservation Union, it is a union of conservation organisations from around the world. Its stated objective is to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable. The IUCN is funded by member governments and other organisations from 181 countries. It performs four main roles: (i) running a programme of practical conservation projects; (ii) organising a voluntary global network of some 10,000 scientists and other specialists who provide advice to governments and international agencies on a range of wildlife related issues; (iii) developing policy for biodiversity and nature conservation; (iv) disseminating information and technical knowledge. Scientific expertise on endangered species is brought together in the Species Action Plans produced by Specialist Groups for the IUCN Species Survival Commission. The information is summarised according to categories of vulnerability in the Red List for threatened animals and plants. These texts underpin conservation science and wildlife conventions throughout the world. The IUCN had an annual income in 2012 of £ 100 million, from nation states contributing to the UN budget, government agencies, international agencies such as the World Bank, and NGOs such as the WWF.

 

Joint Nature Conservation Committee: JNCC

Official wildlife advisor to the UK Government, co-ordinating the activities of Natural England, the Countryside Council for Wales and Scottish Natural Heritage. The JNCC is the forum through which these bodies deliver their statutory responsibilities for Britain as a whole, and internationally. The responsibilities (which the JNCC calls special functions) encompass the sustaining and enriching of biological diversity and natural systems, and the enhancement of geological features. To carry out these responsibilities, the JNCC uses a framework of costed targets. The JNCC has targets for advising ministers on conservation policy in Britain and internationally, particularly with respect to implementing the EU Habitats and Birds Directives. It also has targets for providing information and advice to the public; establishing common standards for monitoring conservation in Britain; and funding research on conservation. In accordance with its responsibilities, the JNCC publishes information on Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas.

 

National Trust and Scottish National Trust

Registered charities, independent of government, with a remit to protect places of historic interest or natural beauty for the public to enjoy. They acquire historic properties and areas of land and coastline, most of which are opened up to public access. Most of the land areas are held 'inalienably', meaning that they cannot be sold, leased or rented without an Act of parliament. The National Trust was founded in 1895 by three philanthropists, and was the first organisation in Britain with a statutory duty to conserve wildlife. It owns 250,000 ha and 1000 km of coastline. The National Trust had an annual income in 2000 of £ 192 million which contributed to a total capital of £ 738 million. Its income in 2006 was up to £ 306 million (slightly exceeding that of Oxfam).

 

Natural England (formerly English Nature and the Countryside Agency)

Statutory agency of the UK Defra formed in October 2006 following the passing of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (NERC Act). NE has four principle functions: (1) Responsibility for conservation of nature in England in obeisance of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; (2) enhancement of access to and enjoyment of natural England; (3) the sustainable use of natural resources, and landscape management, including the overseeing of £ 0.5 billion in agri-environment funding; (4) provision of information to inform future government policy on the environment. Natural England co-ordinates with its two regional equivalents, the Countryside Council for Wales and Scottish Natural Heritage, through the Joint Nature Conservation Committee: JNCC. With these bodies, it champions the natural environment at the level of national government. Natural England facilitates Local Nature Reserve projects, and it owns or controls all English National Nature Reserves (NNRs). It identifies and notifies all English Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs: mostly privately owned); also Special Areas of Conservation (SACs, including marine SACs, of the European Community Habitats Directive), Special Protection Areas (of the European Community Birds Directive), and Ramsar sites, most of which are SSSIs. It consults with owners over stewardship of SSSIs, and has overall responsibility for improving the status of SSSIs. It has powers under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW) to serve Management Notices on owners to compel them to undertakes works to manage SSSIs appropriately for nature conservation. Natural England can prosecute for habitat offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the CROW Act. From a total annual budget of £ 62 million in 2001/2 (up from £ 40m in 1997/8), Natural England used 46% to manage SSSIs and NNRs, and allocates 12% to biodiversity. Natural England also aims to conserve rural landscapes as a national asset for leisure activity. In this regard, it is responsible for designating Areas of Outstanding National Beauty, which do not have statutory protection, and English National Parks, which benefit from protection from development and some £ 23 million in government funding annually. Most National Parks are not in public ownership, but each is managed by its own National Park Authority, under the umbrella of National Parks UK.

 

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds: RSPB

British registered charity devoted to the active protection of wild birds and their habitats. Founded in 1889 as the Fur and Feather Group at Didsbury in Manchester, its original remit was to protest against the trade in birds' feathers for the decoration of hats. It was incorporated under Royal charter in 1904. It now claims to be Europe's largest non-governmental organisation devoted to wildlife conservation, with a membership of over 1 million and an income of £ 37 million (in 1996). It owns or manages over 150 nature reserves in Britain covering 250,000 ha, most of which are open to the public. It also publicises and helps enforce bird protection laws, advising (and lobbying) government and industry about environmental impacts on birds. It has a nation-wide network of regional offices and members' groups. Like many charitable organisations, the RSPB is not very open about how it manages its finances. It obtained an income in 2006 of £ 99.4 million.

 

United Nations

Established in 1945 as an international organisation of nation-states, based on the sovereign equality of its members. The UN is chartered to maintain international peace and security, and to develop friendly relations among nations. It also aims to achieve international co-operation in solving economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian problems and in encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms. The UN World Charter for Nature was published in 1982. In 2000 the UN chartered more than 1000 experts to assess the health of the Earth's ecosystems. Published in 2005, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment evaluated the current and future state of ecosystem services for human wellbeing. It reported on the ecosystem engineering that has contributed to substantial gains in economic development (e.g., from 1960-2000 a 3-fold increase in wood harvest, 2.5-fold increase in food production, 2-fold increase in water use), and the associated costs in unprecedented losses of biodiversity. It identified the main drivers of biodiversity loss as (i) habitat loss and fragmentation increasingly exacerbated by climate change, (ii) over-exploitation of wildlife resources, (iii) invasive species, (iv) pollution particularly from nitrogen fertilizers. It highlighted current overexploitation in 25% of marine fish stocks and in 5-25% of freshwater use, and detailed the largely irreversible degradation of ecosystem services that regulate air and water quality and natural hazards (hurricanes, tsunamis etc). It predicted future impacts on human populations particularly of exacerbated poverty in already poor regions. The United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, produces an annual report on the state of the world human population. This recognises that fertility is falling in many countries, but predicts growth to 8 billion by 2025, requiring a doubling in food production, and 9 billion by 2050, with the 50 poorest countries tripling in size.

 

United Nations Environment Programme: UNEP

Established in 1972, following the UN Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. New priorities were assigned to it by Agenda 21 of the Rio Earth Summit, focusing on monitoring the state of the environment. Its mandate is now 'to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.' Its objectives fall into three categories: (i) assessment: environmental monitoring, including an ongoing report on the state of the global environment, dissemination of information (see GEO, GEMS); (ii) policy: promoting the use of environmental economics, developing international environmental law (see Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES); (iii) sustainable development: raising public awareness and supporting governmental action on sustainable consumption (see World Conservation Strategy). Its activities are financed from the general budget of the UN, by members' contributions, and by trust funds. It is not a funding agency; its resources are used to start up programmes, which then draw funds from other sources, such as governments and environmental agencies.

 

Wildlife Trusts

The national co-ordinating body for the 46 County trusts, including the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Trust and the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust from the local area. The Wildlife Trusts manage 2000 local nature reserves around the UK. The Wildlife Trusts obtained an annual income of £ 16.1 million in 2006.

 

World Wide Fund for Nature: WWF

Established in the UK in 1961 as an international charitable body. Now one of the world's largest and most experienced independent conservation organisation, with 4.7 million supporters and a global network of 24 national organisations. The annual income of WWF International was £ 107.5 million in 2012, of which the United Kingdom branch contributed £ 66.2 million. It is one of the few NGOs that will give grants to fund independent research (the RSPB does so also, on a smaller scale). WWF aims to preserve biodiversity, ensure sustainable use of resources, and promote actions to reduce pollution. In 1996 it set out its 'Global Ecoregions' list of key ecoregions which it considers most representative of the world's biodiversity and therefore most deserving of conservation. WWF funding of field projects and development of policy focuses on three biomes: forest, freshwater and marine. In 1998 WWF produced its 'Living Planet Index': LPI, analysing the global deterioration of forest, freshwater and marine ecosystems between 1970 and 1995. It concludes that humans have destroyed more than 30% of the natural world over this period. The LPI is periodically updated and WWF disseminates it as a 'Dow Jones' Index of the global environment, so that governments will be encouraged to do more than pay lip service to sustainable use of natural resources. It is based on a measure of the human 'ecological footprint': the area of land and sea that we use to sustain our lifestyles. The planet's total area of productive land and sea is 11.4 billion ha, which equates to a global average of 1.9 ha available per person. This is 20% less than the global average footprint, of 2.3 ha/person, so humanity greatly exceeds the planet's capacity to sustain its consumption. The average western European has an ecological footprint of 5.0 ha.

 

 

 

 


2. Landmark Actions: Summits, Conventions and Regulations

 

 

Agenda 21

Adopted by world leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit as a blue-print for sustainable development. Agenda 21 is a framework for political commitment to environmental co-operation, which attempts to unite the combined issues of environmental protection and sustainable development. Some 800 pages long, it identifies priority actions for UNEP and guidelines towards their achievement. The implementation of Agenda 21 by the European Commission involves wide-ranging environmental protection measures, using the Community's Structural Funds to pay for cleaning up the environment and new eco-friendly technologies. In the UK, Defra's vision for sustainable development, and policy to integrate sustainable development into all government operations, promote Agenda 21 strategies from international to individual scales. Many Local Authorities have their own local Agenda 21.

 

Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats 1979

Commissioned by the Council of Europe, to conserve wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats, especially those species and habitats whose conservation requires the co-operation of several States (e.g. migratory animals and birds). It provides lists of flora and fauna requiring protection from exploitation, persecution, loss of habitat. The European Community Habitats and Birds Directives provide the framework for meeting the provisions of the Bern Convention.

 

Common Agricultural Policy: CAP

The most important Common Policy of the European Commission, dating back to 1962 and a forerunner of the single market. The Policy is directed by the European Commission's Agriculture Directorate-General. Its objectives underpin the whole philosophy of the European Union: to increase productivity, to stabilise markets and to ensure food supplies at reasonable prices. These objectives are realised by paying farmers a guaranteed minimum price for their produce. Whilst the principal economic benefit is to protect agriculture from market forces outside the European Union, the cost includes overproduction of some goods and the frequent occurrence of food surpluses. Member States invest a total of £ 30 billion a year in the CAP. The CAP is seen as the principal driver in the simplification and intensification of farm practices, both of which lead to pollution by pesticides and loss of biodiversity. In essence, the Common Agricultural Policy operates in direct conflict with the more recent EC conservation policy, enshrined in the EC Habitats Directive and EC Birds Directive. The European Commission began reform of the CAP in 1999. The reforms included some reduction in the farm subsidies that support the pricing mechanism, taking the form of cuts by 15-20% in the guaranteed intervention prices for cereals, beef and milk. Farmers are nevertheless compensated for losses thereby incurred, and no time limit has been set for phasing out this compensation which is contributing to an overall increase in the cost of the CAP. The finally agreed reform (June 2003) requires that subsidies comply with EU standards on the environment, and farmers are required to maintain land in good environmental condition. Importantly for conservation, the new Rural Development Regulation recognises that agriculture alone cannot sustain rural communities. This is a fresh departure for the CAP, and the promotion of other activities besides production involves support for environment-friendly agricultural methods, and compensatory allowances to cover farming that is restricted by conservation legislation. The reforms also make provision for Member States to define proportionate penalties for environmental infringements.

 

Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010

Implements the European Community Habitats Directive in Britain, in the form of a supplement to the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Schedules 2 and 5 of the Regulations list the animals and plants that are protected at European level. The identification of Special Areas of Conservation in accordance with the Habitats Directive is carried out by Natural England and its regional equivalents.

 

Convention on Biological Diversity 1993

Initiated by UNEP at the Rio Earth Summit, it claims to be the first global, comprehensive agreement to address the conservation of biological diversity within the framework of sustainable development. It has now been ratified by over 170 governments, and by the European Commission, as a legally binding document. It requires signatory countries to adopt ways and means of conserving biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources. It is unique in acknowledging the right of national governments to control access to and distribution of their own resources (including genetic), thus enabling them to benefit directly from sustainable use and conservation. The European Commission has shaped the EC Habitats Directive and EC Birds Directive to meet its commitment to the Convention, by setting up the Natura 2000 network of Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas. Britain's national response to the Convention was the UK Biodiversity Action Plan for priority habitats and species which are listed under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. The USA was a year late in signing the Convention and has still not ratified its agreement to abide by the Convention. The only other nation states yet to ratify are Andorra, Brunei, Holy See, Iraq and Thailand. At the sixth meeting of the Convention's 'Conference of the Parties' (COP 6) in 2002, a total of 123 countries approved an ambitious plan to expand the world's protected areas and to achieve a "significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010". The agreement involved securing sufficient protected areas by 2006 to safeguard all 2,250 species listed on the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered. Furthermore, by 2010 each country was required to designate at least 10% of its land territory as protected. These zones will be monitored by a global network, but local indigenous communities will be involved in all decisions on management and the sharing of the benefits of genetic resources. For the European Community, the 10% target was nearly met by 2010 through the Natura 2000 network of the EC Habitats Directive. The 2010 edition of the Convention's Global Biodiversity Outlook concluded however that the targets for 2010 had not been met on a global scale. At COP 10 in October 2010, 199 countries agreed to a new set of targets, the 'Aichi Biodiversity Targets' for 2011-2020. These are designed to "take effective and urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity", with three types of strategic action. 1. Protection: Protected zones for at least: 17% of the world's terrestrial and inland water areas, and 10% of coastal and marine areas; halving the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests; preventing the extinction of known threatened species. 2. Management: Eliminating subsidies harmful to biodiversity; managing fisheries sustainably; minimizing anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs; requirement for countries to submit scheduled national plans to the CBD. 3. Access and benefit sharing: Benefits to commercialization to flow back to countries and indigenous peoples who supply genetic resources.

 

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species 1975: CITES

Establishes world-wide controls on the international trade in threatened species of animals and plants, listed in the Appendices. It requires that this trade be subject to authorisation by government-issued permits or certificates for species listed in Appendix II. In the case of species threatened with extinction, listed in Appendix I, CITES prohibits all commercial trade in wild specimens. Some 130 countries are members of CITES, including the United Kingdom. CITES controls within the European Community were strengthened in June 1997 by bringing into force a new European Wildlife Trade Regulation. It bans or control commerce in some 30,000 species of animals, birds and plants, and places particular emphasis on sanctions against law-breakers. Recent additions to Appendix II have included the whale shark (the world's largest fish at 20 m in length), the basking shark, and seahorses.(which have declined due to collecting for aquaria).The CITES conference in 2004 urged member states to implement legislation to protect great apes, adopted proposals to strengthen controls on alien invasive species, and recognised the increasing threat to wildlife from the illicit trade in bushmeat. The worldwide trade in wildlife is estimated to be worth billions of dollars annually, and it is being continuously monitored for the secretariat of CITES by the TRAFFIC network, which is a joint programme of the IUCN and WWF.

 

Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000: CROW

Designed to give statutory rights of public access whilst safeguarding landowners. The Act improves management options for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It recognises that public bodies have a duty to further the conservation and enhancement of SSSIs, and it strengthens the powers of Natural England to protect and manage SSSIs. The Act carries heavier penalties than previously possible for people who illegally damage SSSIs. Section 74 of the Act comprises lists of habitats and species of principal importance for the conservation of biological diversity in England, and in this respect it is an instrument of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

 

Environment Act 1995

Legislation to establish the Environment Agency, and to set up environment protection advisory committees in each of seven regions in England and one in Wales, corresponding to river catchments. The Agency is required to consult the committees about management proposals in its regions.

 

European Community Biodiversity Strategy

The strategic framework of objectives for EU policy on biodiversity, adopted in 1998. It is intended as a direct response to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which requires signatories to develop national strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. It is principally a summary of the individual proposals by signatory countries, with guidelines for further incorporation into EU policy. Europe otherwise meets its obligations to this convention only through the EC Habitats Directive and the EC Birds Directive, which pre-date the Convention.

 

European Community Habitats Directive 1992

Currently the principle instrument of the European Union for safeguarding biodiversity. It obliges member states to participate in running an ecological network of 'Special Areas of Conservation': SACs. The network is entitled Natura 2000 and comprises sites that host representative types of natural habitat (listed in Annex I) and the habitats of vulnerable species (listed in Annex II). The criteria for selecting SACs are described in Annex III to the directive. Initiation and maintenance of SACs is financed through the 'LIFE-Nature' fund of the European Commission. The objective is to achieve a Europe-wide framework for restoring these habitats and their species to a favourable conservation status in their natural range. Declines in the numbers of European wild birds are a particular concern of the European Community Birds Directive. Countries that fail to implement Special Areas of Conservation can be taken to the European Court of Law. The EU has produced a barometer to keep track of each country's progress towards its goals. In the United Kingdom both the EU Habitats and Birds Directives are implemented through the Wildlife and Countryside Act, the Conservation (Natural Habitats) Regulation and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. Some 600 UK SACs have been classified, covering 10.2% of UK land surface (25,000 km2, only France and Denmark have lower proportions).

 

European Community Birds Directive 1979

European Union directive to address the decline in bird species through the classification of 'Special Protection Areas' within the Natura 2000 system of the European Community Habitats Directive. These SPAs are designed to afford long term protection and management to some 180 vulnerable bird species with declining populations in Europe (listed in Annex I). Countries that fail to implement SPAs can be taken to the European Court of Law. In the United Kingdom, 242 SPAs have been classified, covering 6.0% of UK land surface (14,700 km2; only France and Ireland have lower proportions).

 

EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020

Resolution adopted in April 2012 recognizing that each year the European Union loses 3% of GDP (450 billion) due to loss of biodiversity. Biodiversity loss is an enormous challenge in the EU, with around one in four species currently threatened with extinction and 88% of fish stocks over-exploited or significantly depleted. The strategy aims to halt the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020, and restore them in so far as feasible. This is in line with the 'Aichi Biodiversity Targets' of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The longer-term vision for 2050 is protection and restoration of biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides, for their intrinsic value and for their contribution to human wellbeing, economic prosperity and resilience. The six targets for 2020 cover (i) full implementation of EU nature legislation to protect biodiversity; (ii) improved protection for ecosystems, and more use of green infrastructure (in line with Rio +20 outcomes); (iii) more sustainable agriculture and forestry; (iv) better management of fish stocks; (v) tighter controls on invasive alien species; (vi) a bigger EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss.

 

Global Biodiversity Outlook: GBO

A project commissioned by UNEP, in response to the environmental reporting requirements of Agenda 21, the GBO is the flagship publication of the Convention on Biological Diversity. It draws on a range of information sources to summarize the latest data on status and trends of biodiversity, and to draw conclusions for the future strategy of the Convention.

 

Global environmental monitoring system: GEMS/WATER

Established by UNEP in 1975 to monitor the quality of air, water and food on a global scale, it now focuses on global freshwater quality. GEMS/WATER is a UNEP programme, and part of their Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA).

 

Living with Environmental Change 

The UK government's response to the range of challenges that society faces under climate and environmental change. LWEC is a partnership of government departments and organisations that fund, undertake and use environmental research. Set up in 2007, its 10-year programme is intended to connect research and development to policy and business in order to ensure risk-based predictions and evidence-based action on environmental change. Its National Ecosystem Assessment is the first analysis of the UK's natural environment in terms of the benefits it provides to society and future economic prosperity.

 

Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006: NERC Act 

Legislation that established Natural England as the single organisation responsible for uniting the enhancement of biodiversity with the promotion of access to countryside in England and Wales. The Act also established the Commission for Rural Communities, as an independent advocate for the interests of rural communities and executor of the annual State of the Countryside report. The NERC Act requires that "every public authority must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity". This means that all local authorities now have a statutory duty to maximise opportunities for conserving and enhancing their local natural environment through improvements to public services. For example, Hampshire Local Authority regards its duty as a commitment to linking biodiversity with quality of life. It will judge its performance against the proportion of Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs) that are being actively managed for conservation.

 

Ramsar Convention

Also known as the 'Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, Especially as Waterfowl Habitat'. It was drafted in Ramsar, Iran in 1971, when representatives from 18 countries and several international organisations met to discuss the alarming rate of wetland loss throughout the world. A major objective was 'to stem the progressive encroachment on and loss of wetlands, now and in the future.' It officially came into force in 1975. The Convention was originally intended to promote awareness on the seriousness of threats to important wetlands throughout the world. It has since created a framework for international co-operation in the conservation of significant wetlands. British Ramsar sites are all SSSIs, as identified and notified by Natural England.

 

Rio Earth Summit 1992 (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development: UNCED)

Marked the 20th anniversary of the UN Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. The Stockholm Conference had heralded the beginning of environmental awareness in the international community. The environmental movement itself was new when it was convened in 1972. To the extent that any countries recognised environmental problems, they were primarily the correctable by-products of industrialisation (e.g. water pollution and smog). Twenty years later, this concern had broadened into a need for planetary management of the human race. The Rio Summit was commissioned by the UN with a remit to elaborate strategies to reverse the effects of environmental degradation. This was to be done by strengthening efforts to promote sustainable and environmentally sound development. Virtually every country in the world was represented (178) and more than 100 heads of state attended. The public were involved, with over 1000 non-government organisations attending or participating as consultants. Tens of thousands of journalists also attended. The participating world leaders signed five major instruments: The Rio Declaration (a statement of principles); Agenda 21; a Framework Convention on Climate Change; a Framework Convention on Biological Diversity; and a Statement of Principles on Forests. The implementation of these conventions by signatory nations was reviewed 5 years on at Earth Summit II in 1997.

  

Rio +20 (United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development)

The meeting in Rio in June 2012 marked the 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit on Environment and Development. Thousands of participants attended, from heads of NGOs to heads of states (though notably not those of the US, UK or Germany). Their objective was to produce a focused political blueprint for a sustainable future. The conference tackled seven critical issues for achieving sustainable development and a green economy. These are: poverty alleviation, renewable energy, functional cities, food security, safe drinking water, ocean management, resilience to disasters. The outcome resolution, adopted by the UN General Assembly: 'The Future We Want', was delivered to more than 100 heads of state and government. The document describes a pathway for a sustainable future, and calls for a wide range of actions towards establishing goals for sustainable development and green economies. Environmentalists found it lacking in detail and ambition to tackle the scale of environmental change since 1992, which has seen a 48% rise in global emissions, clearance of 300 million ha of forest, and 1.6 billion more people in the world. One in six people are malnourished and 1.5 million people die each year from lack of clean water. The outcome pathway was a set of loosely defined steps that still required agreement on themes and consolidation with the UN Millennium Development Goals. The lasting legacy was eventually a more qualitative agreement by all 192 governments that "fundamental changes in the way societies consume and produce are indispensable for achieving global sustainable development". This acceptance by governments worldwide of the need to run green economies led the 194 countries of the UN General Assembly in 2015 to adopt 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with 169 targets to be achieved by 2030 (or in some cases by 2020) covering a wide range of issues in sustainable development, from poverty to biodiversity.

 

UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework (formerly UK Biodiversity Action Plan)

The UK Biodiversity Action Plan was published by Defra in 1994 in three Sections, covering commitment, strategy and mechanisms for protecting biodiversity in the UK. The plan was the UK Government's response to the Convention on Biological Diversity which it had signed up to at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Action plans (BAPs) were created for 1149 priority species and 65 habitats, listed under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. These plans all had the common objectives to protect, maintain and enhance species and habitats, to increase knowledge, and to increase involvement by the wider community. Local BAPs are now available for many counties (e.g. Hampshire) and local boroughs (e.g. Eastleigh), designed to focus local resources on implementing the species and habitat BAPs at a local level. In July 2012, the UK Biodiversity Action Plan was superseded by the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework, which responds to the 2010 strategic plan of the Convention of Biological Diversity, particularly its 'Aichi' targets for 2020, and to the 2012 EU Biodiversity Strategy consolidating Natura 2000. The four countries of the UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) now each have their own country strategies for biodiversity and the environment, developing on policies contained in the 2011 Natural Environment White Paper. For England, 'Biodiversity 2020' provides a route map to improving environmental quality on land and at sea. Its mission is to halt overall biodiversity loss, support the functioning of ecosystems, and establish ecological networks. This will be achieved by adoption of integrated large-scale conservation, building on Natura 2000; raising participation in biodiversity policy with Local Nature Partnerships; reducing environmental pressures, with a greener economy; and improving knowledge with open-access evidence-based conservation.

 

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

Implements the Bern Convention and European Community Habitats Directive in Great Britain (not Northern Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man). The Act has four parts, concerning the protection of: (i) wildlife, (ii) the countryside, national parks and designated areas, (iii) public rights of way, (iv) miscellaneous provisions. It is the principal mechanism for providing legal protection against destruction of wild animals and plants (listed in the Schedules) and their habitats in Great Britain. Protection is given to all birds and their nests and eggs, except game and pest species listed in Schedules 2-4. Other animals are not so widely covered. Schedule 5 lists the 100-odd to be given full protection (mostly invertebrates, the only mammals are bats, porpoises, dolphins and whales, wild cat, dormouse, pine marten, otter, walrus). Schedule 6 lists the few other mammals protected against certain methods of killing (badger, hedgehog, shrews). Protected plants are listed in Schedule 8. The Act outlaws some hunting methods for all animal species, including gin traps, self-locking snares, crossbows; it prohibits other methods for 'vulnerable' species, including snares and spring traps. The Act empowers Natural England to protect habitats of national importance through the statutory designation of protected areas.

 

Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996

The principle British legislation protecting any wild animal from cruelty, though it relates only to mammals. Since 1996 it has become an offence to mutilate, kick, beat, impale, stab, burn, stone, crush, drown, drag, or asphyxiate any wild mammal with intent to inflict unnecessary suffering.

 

World Conservation Strategy 1980

A milestone report prepared by the IUCN, UNEP and WWF, which was one of the earliest and most important attempts to integrate society and the biosphere. It sets out a blueprint for national and regional strategies to conserve living resources within the framework of current social and economic developments. Its three major objectives are widely recognised as the ecological "bottom line" for human activities in the biosphere: (i) to maintain essential ecological processes and life support systems, (ii) to conserve genetic diversity and wild species, (iii) to ensure sustainable utilisation of species and ecosystems. A successor volume in 1991 was called 'Caring for the Earth.'

 

World Development Summit 2002 (UN World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg)

Ten years after Agenda 21 was adopted at the Rio Earth Summit, the World Development Summit proposed to identify quantifiable targets for better implementing Agenda 21. It was hoped that the summit would lead to regulation of development towards worldwide sustainability, backed up by international legislation. Biodiversity issues were set within the contexts of sustainable agriculture (crop diversity), water (water purification), energy (climate change), and health (plant-derived medicines). The summit attracted some 30,000 participants (plus 4000 media), including 100 heads of state - with the notable exception of the US President. George Bush boycotted the summit after a successful conservative lobby supported by Exxon Mobile. There was a strong executive presence in addition to Government ministers, representatives of NGOs and environmentalists. Although environmentalists broadly welcomed the increasing interest in sustainability issues shown by big businesses, they perceived a risk that private enterprise will use its voluntary involvement to escape legislation. "It's like having Al Capone volunteering to help you draft criminal justice laws" said one campaigner. The summit had three principal outcomes. (1) Declaration on Sustainable Development, comprising a commitment by Heads of State to taking the action needed to make sustainable development a reality. (2) Plan of Implementation, setting out the specific action required by governments. (3) Commitments by governments and other stakeholders to a broad range of partnerships that will implement sustainable development at the national, regional and international level. More specifically, governments agreed to (a) halve the number of people lacking clean drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015; (b) take action to improve access to affordable energy; (c) significantly reduce extinction rates of rare animals and plants by 2010. Russia agreed to ratify the Kyoto treaty on global warming, effectively allowing it to be implemented despite rejection by the US. Governments failed to agree specific targets for the fraction of global energy to come from renewable sources (the EU wanted targets, the US opposed them), or for the reduction in extinction rates. UK Government strategy on sustainable development was first set out in 1999, with goals to protect the environment and use its natural resources prudently, and year-on-year progress measured by a system of headline indicators. The UK Government now has a delivery plan for meeting its biodiversity commitments agreed at the World Development Summit, which will be judged against evidence of a significant decline in biodiversity loss and high level commitment to continuing the turnaround. Following the summit, the Government announced a two-fold increase in its funding of the Darwin Initiative: the UK's principal grants programme for global biodiversity research and development. The 2-week summit was organised according to environmental best-practice guidelines, to minimise environmental damage caused by the event itself.

 


C. P. Doncaster, 25 October 2017