Select Committee on International Development Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee


  1.1  The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) was established by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 as a committee of the then newly-created country nature conservation agencies and others. The Countryside Council for Wales, English Nature and Scottish Natural Heritage are the Government agencies responsible for safeguarding and promoting wildlife and natural features in Britain. CCW and SNH have additional duties to conserve landscapes, and to encourage and sustain opportunities for public enjoyment of the countryside.

  1.2  The JNCC is the forum through which the three country agencies act jointly to deliver their special statutory responsibilities for nature conservation in Great Britain and internationally. Since devolution, these special responsibilities have also related to the Scottish Executive and the National Assembly for Wales, as well as the UK government. The involvement of the Environment and Heritage Service, an agency of the Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland), allows us to adopt a consistent approach across the United Kingdom, wherever this is appropriate.

  1.3  The JNCC's special responsibilities contribute to maintaining and enriching biological diversity, enhancing geological features, and sustaining natural systems. They are principally to:

    —  advise Ministers on the development and implementation of policies for, or affecting, nature conservation in Great Britain or internationally;

    —  provide advice and disseminate knowledge to anyone about nature conservation affecting Great Britain and internationally;

    —  establish common standards throughout Great Britain for the monitoring of nature conservation, and for research into nature conservation and the analysis of the results;

    —  commission or support research which the Committee considers relevant to the special functions.

  1.4  Staff from the three country agencies work on behalf of the Committee, either through assignment to a central Support Unit, through inter-agency groups, or by acting as a lead agency on particular topics.


  2.1  Most of JNCC's work on climate change is discharged by the Inter-Agency Climate Change Group which is chaired by English Nature. The group's activities include a programme of scientific research into the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, the outputs of which are directed towards informing the development of policies and practical solutions for nature conservation.

  2.2  Currently, JNCC's main concern in relation to global climate change concerns the UK Overseas Territories. In particular, JNCC is undertaking a collaborative project with the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research (University of East Anglia) into the implication of climate change for the biodiversity of the Overseas Territories. The study will commence shortly and will be carried out by a research student over a three-year period.

  2.3  It is anticipated that this project will make a significant contribution towards the effective implementation of environmentally sustainable development in the Overseas Territories. The findings are also likely to be relevant to certain other countries.


  3.1  The UK Overseas Territories largely comprise small island ocean states, which together make a significant contribution to global biodiversity. They also contain ecosystems that are likely to be highly vulnerable to climate change, as a consequence of the flooding of coastal habitats due to sea level rise, coral bleaching due to increased sea surface temperatures, storms causing widespread destruction, and changes to land-based systems caused by changes in temperature or rainfall.

  3.2  A report co-authored by members of the Tyndall Centre (The Impacts of Global Climate Change on the Overseas Territories; report to DFID OUT 2001) examined the likely impacts of climate change on Anguilla, Montserrat, the Pitcairn Islands, St Helena, Turks and Caicos, and Tristan da Cunha. The conclusions were that global climate change could have severe consequences for human livelihoods, especially through impacts on coastal systems. However, the consequences for endangered species and communities were not considered in any detail. Environmental protection is a critical component of sustainable development, and the identification of problems and the initiation of appropriate adaptation measures in relation to biodiversity conservation are, therefore, of high priority. Moreover, it is envisaged that the JNCC will need to contribute significantly to this process through dialogue with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum. The aim of this project is to inform that dialogue and assist the JNCC in executing its special functions.

  3.3  The most important species and communities for each of the island Overseas Territories will be reviewed along with their likely sensitivities to climate change. The species will include not only those that are likely to be specifically threatened on each island, but also those that belong to internationally important assemblages and those that are economically important and fall under Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) regulation. In each country and for each habitat, ecological importance, socio-economic importance, threats from climate change and other threats will be tabulated. This review will then be used to identify the habitats and areas at greatest risk from climate change, and consequently the habitats requiring more detailed research. Where appropriate, as in the case of seabird colonies, consideration will also be given to global change impacts on the wider marine environment.

  3.4  The next stage will be an intensive study of a number of key habitats (such as mangroves, coral reefs and forests) in which the factors affecting the distribution, quality and species composition of the habitat will be assessed. This will involve a detailed comparative study across habitats, where necessary extending to similar countries outside the Overseas Territories. The objective will be to produce a model predicting habitat distribution in relation to a range of factors, including climate.

  3.5  The importance for biodiversity of these habitats will be evaluated along with the wider economic importance of the biodiversity (e.g. for mangroves: tourism, nursery areas for fish, water purification, coastal defence; for coral reefs: fishing, diving tourism, coastal protection; for forests: watershed protection, forest products, carbon storage). Consideration of economic factors will enhance the value of the project for sustainable development.

  3.6  The climate change models will then be combined with the habitat distribution models to predict likely changes in the distribution and quality of habitats within the territories, and the potential consequences for biodiversity and the local economies. This analysis will then be used to suggest mitigation measures.

Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC)

January 2002

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