Memorandum submitted by the Joint Nature
1. Three of the strategic priorities in
the 2006 White Paper Active diplomacy for a changing world
are particularly relevant to international nature conservation:
(i) we agree that sustainable development
is a strategic priority and are pleased to see that due regard
has been given to achieving environmental sustainability and tackling
global climate change;
(ii) we support the priority given to the
UK's Overseas Territories and in particular the specific aim to
promote biodiversity conservation but we would prefer to see the
environment specifically mentioned in the high-level priority,
to accompany security and good governance; and
(iii) we acknowledge the need for the UK
to engage effectively with the European Union, although we have
some concerns about the apparent emphasis on economic growth and
2. Our experience is that there is currently
less focus on environmental issues within the FCO than there has
been previously, especially prior to the White Paper and the internal
re-structuring that accompanied this. We urge that this trend
is reversed in the future. We recommend that higher priority is
given to the environment throughout the FCO's work and that this
is reflected in the FCO's next Public Service Agreement.
3. We believe that the Inter-Departmental
Ministerial Group on Biodiversity (IDMGB) provides an important
mechanism for co-ordinating cross-departmental working on biodiversity
issues. However, for the group to be fully effective we recommend
(i) it meets more frequently;
(ii) it addresses substantive cross-cutting
policy issues, such as issues arising from the Millennium Ecosystem
(iii) it involves a wider range of departments
than is currently the case.
4. Greater attention to biodiversity conservation
in the UK's Overseas Territories is essential if the UK is to
meet the World Summit on Sustainable Development commitment to
reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. The Overseas Territories
Environment Programme plays a significant role in supporting environmental
protection but we believe that a much greater investment in sustainable
development in the Overseas Territories is needed from the UK.
The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC)
is the statutory adviser to Government on UK and international
nature conservation, on behalf of the Council for Nature Conservation
and the Countryside, the Countryside Council for Wales, Natural
England and Scottish Natural Heritage. Its work contributes to
maintaining and enriching biological diversity, conserving geological
features and sustaining natural systems.
We welcome the opportunity to provide evidence
to this inquiry on matters relevant to our statutory remit. Our
response is provided to each of the questions raised by the Environmental
Audit Committee in turn.
The UK is a key player in supporting the conservation
of the world's biodiversity and Earth heritage and, more generally,
in supporting sustainable development. The FCO has a critical
role in implementing UK strategy in this regard internationally.
The JNCC plays an active role in supporting the FCO and other
government departments in meeting the UK's international nature
1. How do environmental protection and sustainable
development relate to international security, good governance
1.1 Poor governance, corruption and internal
or international conflict undermine attempts to protect the environment
and the ecosystem services it provides (and which contribute to
sustainable development). In addition, democracy is more likely
to enable civil society to contribute to debate on how development
is taken forward, to enable citizens to have access to environmental
information (and justice), and to ensure that steps towards sustainable
development are likely to be genuinely sustained in the longer
term. Full expression of human rights is likely to help minorities
and the most disadvantaged members of society to benefit (for
example, through recognised tenure over environmental resources)
from the ecosystem services provided by a healthy environment.
Indeed, the world's poor are often more dependent on such ecosystem
services than their wealthier counterparts.
2. What are the main stumbling blocks to
international environmental diplomacy, how successful has it been
in the past, and how might we ensure better that negotiations
lead to effective global environmental protection?
2.1 We are not able to offer any comments
on this question.
3. How does the FCO account for the environment
in its work? Is the FCO's current structure and capacity effective
at promoting UK international environmental and sustainable development
priorities? Are FCO officials, at all levels, aware of the importance
of the environment for development and security objectives, and
3.1 Three of the strategic international
priorities and associated aims for the FCO in the 2006 White Paper
Active diplomacy for a changing world are particularly
relevant to the environment (see 6.1-6.4 below). However, our
experience is that there is currently less focus on environmental
issues in the FCO than there has been previously, especially prior
to the White Paper and the internal re-structuring that accompanied
this. For example, FCO staff now less frequently form part of
UK delegations to multilateral environmental agreements and the
number of contacts within the FCO with whom we deal on environmental
issues is reduced.
4. What more could the FCO do to advance
the UK's environmental objectives?
4.1 In broad terms, we would like to see
the FCO integrate environmental issues into all of its work programmes
(in line with the principles of sustainable development) and ensure
that adequate resources are made available to enable it to contribute
effectively to the UK's international nature conservation obligations.
More specific recommendations are made in other parts of this
5. Are FCO sustainable development attaches
effective at promoting sustainable development internationally?
How do they work and how might this be improved?
5.1 We believe that the network of sustainable
development attaches serves a valuable purpose in allowing relevant
FCO staff to share knowledge and experience on issues related
to sustainable development. Their annual conferences are a useful
opportunity to bring together dispersed staff to focus on key
issues and to enable greater consistency of approach and improved
intra-departmental working. Given the rapid turnover of staff
in FCO posts, the network is also a means of retaining and transferring
institutional knowledge within relevant posts. All our links with
the network have been positive; we hope the network will be maintained
as a means for taking forward FCO input to sustainable development.
6. Do FCO policy documents, such as the 2006
White Paper, reflect sufficiently sustainable development objectives?
Has the International Energy Strategy led to better consideration
of climate change in international energy supply policy in the
FCO and across government?
6.1 We comment on three of the strategic
priorities in the 2006 White Paper that are most relevant to international
6.2 We note that sustainable development
(along with poverty reduction) is one of the nine strategic priorities
in the White Paper, and we are pleased to see that due regard
has been given to achieving environmental sustainability and tackling
global climate change in the specific aims for the FCO. We also
welcome the FCO's focus on the Millennium Development Goals and
the targets from the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
6.3 We support the strategic priority of
supporting the security and good governance of the Overseas Territories.
We note that there are specific aims dealing with the environment
and biodiversity conservation. This is very welcome, and acknowledges
the global importance of the Overseas Territories for biodiversity.
However, we would prefer to see the environment specifically mentioned
in the high-level priority, to accompany security and good governance,
as this would send a stronger message about the priority which
the UK government sets for sustainable development within its
6.4 With respect to the priority to build
an effective and globally competitive European Union, we agree
that engagement with the EU should be a strategic priority for
the UK Government, but are concerned at the emphasis on economic
growth and competitiveness in isolation rather than as components
of sustainable development. Since the inception of the Barroso
Commission, we feel the ethos of sustainable development has taken
a `back-seat' under the pressure to improve economic growth and
employment levels through implementation of the Lisbon Strategy.
Ignoring the environment when planning for and encouraging economic
growth will limit competitiveness for the sake of short-term gain
and, by exporting environmental problems, contribute to an erosion
of neighbourhood and global security. Environmental regulations
and policy do not have to be barriers to growth; they can be (and
often are) the drivers of it.
7. Is there adequate funding for projects
in the FCO Sustainable Development Programme? Are all projects
funded by the FCO, including under other programmes, leading to
truly sustainable outcomes? How are FCO-funded projects screened
to ensure their sustainability?
7.1 The funds available through those components
of the Global Opportunities Fund relevant to sustainable development
(including the Overseas Territories Environment Programme (OTEP))
provide a means of supporting a range of small projects that contribute
to the FCO's strategic objectives. Whilst greater funding would
always be desirable, it is equally important to ensure that funds
are properly targeted to achieve the greatest impact and legacy.
Accordingly, periodic reviews of the effectiveness of funding
programmes are desirable, such as the review recently completed
for OTEP. In particular, it is important that projects supported
by such funds are not all applicant-driven but that, to retain
a focus on strategic priorities, direction is given to applicants
or work is commissioned to address key issues. We also believe
it is important that the results of projects are widely disseminated
(noting that failures can sometimes be as informative as successes)
and that there is some form of post-project monitoring (perhaps
after several years) to assess whether projects have truly achieved
a sustained legacy. Our experience of OTEP, with which we are
involved through participation on the assessment panel, is that
the projects are given fair and adequate scrutiny to ensure they
meet the fund objectives and are likely to provide long-lasting
8. How well does the FCO work with other
departments, and in particular DEFRA, DFID and DTI, in relation
to sustainable development objectives?
8.1 We are not able to comment on how the
FCO works with other departments across the full spectrum of its
activities. However, we recognise the strong links and close working
arrangements they have with DFID with respect to the Overseas
Territories and in their joint management of the Overseas Territories
Environment Programme (see also 7.1 and 13.3).
8.2 We recognise that the strategic priorities
identified in the White Paper are for UK Government as a whole,
while noting that the FCO has a key role in the achievement of
many of these priorities. It is essential that different parts
of Government share coherent objectives and actively co-operate
in their delivery. Suitable structures and processes need to be
put in place to achieve this. For example, the Inter-Departmental
Ministerial Group on Biodiversity (IDMGB), which comprises Ministers
with biodiversity responsibilities from the FCO, Defra and DFID,
together with the Chairman of the JNCC, is an important mechanism
for co-ordinating cross-departmental working on biodiversity issues.
8.3 However, we believe that if the IDMGB
is to be fully effective it needs to meet more regularly and to
address substantive cross-cutting policy issues. Given the recent
recommendation of the Environmental Audit Committee for a cross-departmental
Ministerial group to address the findings of the Millennium Ecosystem
seems to us that the IDMGB is ideally placed to take on this role.
We also recommend that the IDMGB should involve a wider range
of departments than is currently the case. In particular, given
the strong links between the environment and trade and economic
growth in achieving sustainable development, the absence of a
DTI minister reduces the effectiveness of the group.
9. How well does the FCO meet the competing
demands placed upon them by different departments such as DTI
and DEFRA, and is there evidence that the environment and development
are given adequate priority?
9.1 We are not able to comment on the first
part of this question. With respect to the second part, we draw
attention to our comments in 6.1-6.4 above, where we note an imbalance
in some elements of the 2006 White Paper between the priority
afforded to economic development and the treatment of biodiversity
and environment issues.
10. To what extent does the FCO work with
non-state actors in achieving sustainable development objectives?
Has the FCO made full use of such organisations?
10.1 We are not able to offer any comments
on this question.
11. Should the FCO be required to extend
its environmental policy statement to its foreign estate? How
well does its foreign estate perform in relation to the policy
statement? Is the FCO foreign estate providing an example of our
international environmental aspirations, such as the use of less
polluting vehicles or renewable energy?
11.1 We note that the FCO encourages its
overseas posts to operate in ways that reflect the FCO environmental
policy applied to its UK estate but that it does not feel it would
be proportionate to apply the policy to the entire overseas estate
immediately. While we recognise that standards applied in the
UK cannot always be applied so readily overseas, the FCO is typically
the face of the UK government abroad and it is important that
the UK, and so the FCO, leads by example. Accordingly, we feel
it is desirable that the FCO environmental policy is applied to
the greatest extent feasible in overseas posts. A shift to sustainable
practices and procurement by these posts would set a valuable
lead for other countries to emulate. We welcome the local environmental
initiatives undertaken by some overseas posts.
12. How well are environmental objectives
reflected in the FCO Public Service Agreements?
12.1 Within the FCO's Public Service Agreement
(PSA) for 2005-08 there is only one target with an explicit environmental
component, namely PSA8 relating to sustainable development. There
is an objective relating to the Overseas Territories, but regrettably
there is no associated target. We strongly recommend that as part
of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review the FCO's revised PSA
should contain a specific target for the Overseas Territories
that explicitly refers to biodiversity and/or the environment
12.2 We also recommend that there should
be more shared ownership of PSA targets between departments. For
example, the 2006 White Paper contains an aim for the FCO to support
delivery of the commitments made at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable
Development (WSSD). This links very closely to one of Defra's
PSA targets for 2005-08. We believe there would be considerable
merit if the two departments were to have a shared target relating
to WSSD commitments in their next PSAs.
13. Has the FCO met its responsibilities
towards the environment in UK Overseas Territories?
13.1 As recognised in the Environmental
Audit Committee's recent report into the UN Millennium Ecosystem
Assessment, the UK's Overseas Territories are of global significance
for biodiversity. The successful conservation of biodiversity
in the Overseas Territories is fundamental to the UK being able
to make an effective contribution to the WSSD commitment to reduce
the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.
13.2 As noted in 6.3 above, we welcome the
strategic priority in the 2006 White Paper to support the security
and good governance of the UK's Overseas Territories and, especially,
the specific aim to promote biodiversity conservation.
13.3 The joint FCO/DFID Overseas Territories
Environment Programme (OTEP) plays a significant role in supporting
environment protection and sustainable development in the Territories.
We believe that the continuation of OTEP, as a means of supporting
the implementation of the Territories' Environment Charters and
achieving the UKs strategic international priorities, is vital.
We endorse the recommendations of the recent OTEP review, and
the Government response to this, namely that the fund should focus
on key priorities rather than simply being demand-led.
13.4 The financial support provided to the
Overseas Territories needs to be commensurate with the challenges
that they face. Compared to the funding available in the "metropolitan"
UK to support biodiversity conservation and sustainable development
more generally, funding for the Territories is much smaller in
both absolute and relative terms, despite the importance of the
Territories for biodiversity. While initiatives such as OTEP are
very welcome, we believe that a much greater investment in sustainable
development in the Overseas Territories is needed from the UK.
13.5 We recommend that greater cross-Government
co-ordination is needed to fully deliver environmental benefits
in the Overseas Territories. The Inter-Departmental Ministerial
Group on Biodiversity (see 8.2-8.3 above) provides a potentially
powerful mechanism for achieving effective co-ordination.
14. How effective have public diplomacy activities
funded by FCO been in promoting sustainable development principles
14.1 We are not able to offer any comments
on this question.
1 House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee.
2007. The UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. First report
of session 2006-07. The Stationery Office, London. Back