UK Overseas Territories |
73. In our last report on the UN Millennium Ecosystem
Assessment, we discussed the importance of the UK Overseas Territories
(UKOTs). These 14 territories, which include the Falkland Islands,
are globally significant in terms of their biodiversity resources.
We found during the course of the inquiry that many environments
in the UKOTs are under threat, and that the current level of support
being provided to the UKOTs for the protection of these resources
are not adequate. We concluded that the "Government must
act decisively to prevent further loss of biodiversity in the
UKOTs", and that this would involve a move "towards
increased and more appropriate funding for conservation and ecosystem
74. DFID and FCO responded that they agree that "a
longer-term funding commitment would enable a more strategic approach
to be taken, but [that they] are currently providing resources
to the Overseas Territories for environmental management to the
fullest extent [they are] able".
The Government pointed out to us that FCO funding for the UKOTs
via the Overseas Territories Environment Programme (OTEP) had
been increased by £94,000 for the financial year 2007/08,
to £469,000, although it stated that future allocations would
depend on the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review. DFID
has also increased its allocation, to £1.5 million for the
period 2007/08-2009/10, an increase of £125,000 annually.
OTEP will therefore receive just under £1 million in 2007/08.
It also highlighted the fact that the JNCC was enhancing its support
for biodiversity in the UKOTs, "in part due to increased
resources from DEFRA through its financial settlement".
75. The RSPB recently published a report that attempts
to provide an outline estimate of the cost in meeting biodiversity
priorities in the UKOTs, "to facilitate a comparison of current
expenditures with identified needs". The analysis estimated
that total costs amount to some £16.1 million per year between
2007 and 2011, in addition to existing local expenditure on biodiversity
conservation. The report's authors concede that the estimates
are only intended to be indicative, and are also incomplete, but
they stress that the figures suggest that current funding is "insufficient
to meet biodiversity conservation priorities".
76. During the Sub-committee inquiry into the UN
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the DEFRA Minister, Barry Gardiner
MP, acknowledged the problems that the UKOTs face in meeting environmental
The Sub-committee asked the FCO Minister about these concerns
and he said that:
We take very seriously our activities in the Overseas
Territories. Many of those territories have limited capacity
and so it is important that we help build capacity, build resources
and we utilise across government our resources, whether it is
Defra resources or DIFD resources or our own resources, and to
do it in a practical way, not just getting them to sign up to
activities but to actually help them in a practical way forward.
So we have to make sure that we are very proactive
in ensuring that our Overseas Territories are covered in an effective,
practical way in international agreements or in any programme
work that we are doing, whether it is in biodiversity or other
programmes on sustainable development and that means in most instances
putting practical programmes in place.
77. This strong acceptance by the Minister of the
need to support the UKOTs, seems at odds with the current funding
situation, which appears based on what the FCO and DFID can 'spare',
rather than on a strategic assessment of need. The UKOT Conservation
Forum (UKOTCF) stressed that they were grateful to the FCO, "not
simply for contributing to their funding but also for their support
in promoting improved environmental policies in the UKOTs".
The NGO provided a number of examples of the environmental projects
that the FCO has contributed to, one in particular demonstrating
the apparent current strategic disarray of environmental funding,
as well as the benefits of increased environmental funding:
[The]Ascension Seabird Restoration Project. This
2001-2003 project tackled another invasive problemthe feral
cats on Ascension. It was technically challenging for the RSPB
and the Ascension Administrator to manage because of the terrain
and because the cooperation of every island resident and visitor
was essential. However, because of its scale the project has
already produced benefits far beyond the complete elimination
of feral cats (the largest island anywhere on which this has been
achieved) and the growth of new seabird colonies. The budget
allowed for the first year's salary for a full-time conservation
officer in the Ascension Island Government (Tara Pelembe, a Saint
[Ascension islander] with a degree in geography). The project
became the subject of her M.Sc and her full-time positionnow
wholly funded by the elected Ascension Island Council out of local
taxeshas enabled her to work with local volunteers to establish
(with funding from OTEP) Ascension's First National Park on Green
Mountain. She has also supported work on Green Turtle conservation,
attracting several graduate students from the UK.
This textbook example of capacity building has, however,
a catch. The seabird project was not a typical small project:
it cost £0.5 million, the same as the FCO's current annual
contribution to OTEP for ALL the UKOTs. While the RSPB and other
Forum members had developed the environmental and business case
for this project over many years, this had been repeatedly rejected
by HMG on budgetary grounds. Ironically, the money was found
from the FCO's programme budget, when a non-environmental large
UN-related project fell through and there was a risk of an embarrassing
underspend, which would have been clawed back by the Treasury.
The fortuitous implementation of this strategic large project
has a kick in the tail. The Ascension Conservation Officer has
just been recruited to a new post in the Joint Nature Conservation
Committeeto work on UKOTs issues. The Forum greatly welcomes
this further demonstration of the JNCC's commitment to the territories:
and we are delighted to see this example of Ascension helping
with capacity building in the UK!
welcome the fact that FCO and DFID have, in the short term, increased
their financial support for better environmental management in
the UKOTs, but we are concerned that this has not been undertaken
on the basis of an analysis of need. Research by the RSPB suggests
that even with this funding increase a considerable funding shortfall
will remain in the UKOTs for biodiversity protection.
79. Iain Orr of BioDiplomacy told the Sub-committee
that part of the reason why the UKOTs have been neglected by the
Government is that they are often seen "by many officials
and ministers as problems rather than as overseas relations sharing
a common British heritage", and that the rest of Whitehall
"often treats issues involving the UKOTs as for them or the
FCO to 'sort out'".
He argued that "one of the FCO's prime undischarged responsibilities
is to convince every part of [the Government] (especially the
Treasury and DEFRA) that only by a sea-change in attitudes to
the UKOTs will the UK be able to meet its commitments" towards
them, both international and domestic.
The UKOTCF told us that the Government's domestic commitments
to the UKOTs were established in a series of Environment Charters
agreed in 2001. The Charters "have shared principles, followed
by separate commitments made by each territory and by the UK".
The UK government's commitments follow a common pattern:
Help build capacity to support and implement integrated
environmental management which is consistent with [the territory's]
own plans for sustainable development.
Assist [the territory] in reviewing and updating
Facilitate the extension of the UK's ratification
of Multilateral Environmental Agreements of benefit to [the territory]
and which [the territory] has the capacity to implement.
Keep [the territory] informed regarding new developments
in relevant Multilateral Environmental Agreements and invite [the
territory] to participate where appropriate in the UK's delegation
to international environmental negotiations and conferences.
Help [the territory] to ensure it has the legislation,
institutional capacity and mechanisms it needs to meet international
Promote better cooperation and the sharing of experience
and expertise between [the territory], other Overseas Territories
and small island states and communities which face similar environmental
Use UK, regional and local expertise to give advice
and improve knowledge of technical and scientific issues. This
includes regular consultation with interested non-governmental
organisations and networks.
Use the existing Environment Fund for the Overseas
Territories, and promote access to other sources of public funding,
for projects of lasting benefit to [the territory's] environment.
Help [the territory] identify further funding partners
for environmental projects, such as donors, the private sector
or non-governmental organisations.
Recognise the diversity of the challenges facing
Overseas Territories in very different socio-economic and geographical
Abide by the principles set out in the Rio Declaration
on Environment and Development and work towards meeting International
Development Targets on the environment.
80. The Sub-committee asked the Minister whether
his department had assessed the success of the Environment Charters,
and was told that the "UKOTCF is currently gathering information
on the progress in implementing the Environment Charter Commitments
for each Territory". This is due to be published as a report
towards the middle of this year, to feed into a wider review of
the Charters with other departments and UKOT governments.
81. International commitments for which the Government
also has a joint responsibility in the UKOTs include those under
the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, The Convention
on Migratory Species and CITES.
UKOTCF argued that the FCO does not have the expertise to address
most of these domestic and international commitments, on which
DEFRA leads in most cases.
It stressed that "the UK government and civil society will
never achieve policy coherence on the UKOTs concerning trade,
development and environment if this is treated as primarily a
matter for the FCO".
The NGO argued to us that the "core problem" concerning
environmental and governance issues in the UKOTs is that:
the UK exercises sovereignty over the territories
primarily through the FCO (which appoints Governors and Administrators
to work with the locally-elected governments), but in many specific
areas that matter to the UK as a wholeand to the UK's international
reputation - the FCO lacks essential skills or resources. This
would not matter much as far as trade, development and the environment
are concerned, ifas should be the caseother parts
of HMG accepted their responsibilities and made staffing and budgetary
provision for work relating to the UKOTs. A key FCO responsibility
should, therefore, be acting as a champion for the UKOTs throughout
Whitehall and in the FCO's network of relations with companies,
NGOs and institutions whose expertise can benefit the UKOTs.
82. The RSPB provided us with an example of the failure
of Departments to work together in providing adequate support
for the UKOTs. It told us that when a UKOT has a query on an environmental
issue for which the FCO is not responsible, it is not clear who
should provide the support. It argued that the "roles and
responsibilities are not clearly defined and it is almost as if
they are trying to pass the responsibility between two government
departments so it just slips between the cracks".
The RSPB also alleged that the UKOTs are not a high priority for
DEFRA, and also that "although they have perhaps the expertise
they do not have the connections on the ground like the Foreign
Sarah Sanders from RSPB did accept that "there has been a
move to try and improve working relationships between [FCO, DEFRA
and DFID] for the UK Overseas Territories but
there is still
room for a lot of improvement".
83. We are disturbed
that witnesses have stressed to us that departments other than
FCO and DFID do not provide the level of support to the UKOTs
that is required. Although DEFRA does provide some direct and
indirect support, the level of this does not fill the specialist
environmental gaps that are apparent in the UKOTs. We recommend
firstly that DEFRA be involved at the highest level in reviewing
the Environment Charters. The Inter-Ministerial Working Group
on Biodiversity should provide the focus for this review to ensure
coordination between departments. It is necessary for this review
to assess whether both the Government, and the governments of
the UKOTs, have met their respective obligations under the Environment
Charters and Multilateral Environmental Agreements. Secondly,
DEFRA should be given joint responsibility towards the UKOTs.
This should be reflected in an updated UK International Priority,
to include environmental protection alongside security and good
governance in the UKOTs. This will also have to be reflected in
DEFRA's Comprehensive Spending Review settlement. Finally, as
part of the Environment Charter review, the case for larger and
more routine funding must be explored. Given that the Treasury
is currently conducting a spending review, it is imperative that
this funding analysis feeds into, and influences, the Treasury's
ultimate decision as to spending allocations for FCO, DFID and
84. If the Government
fails to address these issues it will run the risk of continued
environmental decline and species extinctions in the UKOTs, ultimately
causing the UK to fail in meeting its domestic and international
environmental commitments. Failure to meet such commitments undermines
the UK's ability to influence the international community to take
the strong action required for reversing environmental degradation
in their own countries, and globally.
113 Environmental Audit Committee, First Report of
Session 2006-07, The UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment,
HC 77, paragraphs 133 & 140 Back
Government response to the Committee's First Report of Session
2006-07: The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, May 2007, www.parliament.uk Back
RSPB, Costing Biodiversity Priorities in the UK Overseas Territories,
2 April 2007, www.rspb.org.uk Back
Environmental Audit Committee, First Report of Session 2006-07,
The UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, HC 77, Ev 44 Back
Ev 62 Back
Ev 73 Back
Ev 73 & 74 Back
Ev 17 Back
ibid para 29 Back
Ev 72 Back
Ev 72 Back
Ev 64 Back
Ev 73 Back
Ev 75 Back
Ev 74 Back
Qu 8 [Ms Sanders] Back
Qu 10 Back
Qu 11 [Ms Sanders] Back