Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-69)|
7 FEBRUARY 2007
Q60 Mr Caton: That really leads me
on to my next question. In your written evidence to us you said
that the Overseas Territories do not have the financial capacity
to deal effectively with their environmental challenges. Have
you assessed the level of funding that is required?
Dr Fleming: The simple answer
to that is no, but I think it is an important question, because
various figures are being suggested and I am not entirely sure
of the grounds for those. I think that it is an important step
to take and one which could, and should, arise from territories
doing their own action plans or strategic plans to implement the
Environment Charters. If you set out the steps that you want to
take, then you are better able to cost them and to estimate what
resources may be involved. So I think that it is an important
step to do that sort of analysis of what is current funding, what
is desired funding and maybe what is necessary funding, and to
see how big the difference between them actually is. The question
then is where might those resources come from, and we are not
necessarily able to say. Equally, however, there is another important
point in relation to resources, namely that, regardless of how
much resource you have availableand that may be funding,
it may be help in other waysit is quite important that
it is targeted effectively and that it has a strategic direction:
where do you want to spend this money? One of theI would
not like to use the word "difficulties"with OTEP
is that, in the past, it has largely been applicant-driven. There
is nothing wrong necessarily with that; but equally, when a fund
is being driven by applicants, it does not necessarily take you
in the strategic directions that you may wish to take. This year,
for example, OTEP have set out fairly clear guidance that they
want to provide support "in the following areas", and
most of the applications that I have seen are falling very closely
into those categories. I think that it is therefore quite important
that you focus your money on strategic priorities, and maybe seek
to guide applicants towards those, but it is also important to
see what returns your money has provided. In other words, there
should be some form of follow-up monitoring; some form of looking
at what legacy previous projects have provided, and how successful
they were or notbecause, of course, failures are sometimes
as instructive as successes. If you look at the Darwin Initiative,
they have similar processes of post-project monitoring; equally,
they have to look at this challenge of legacy: how do you determine
what the legacy from your spend has actually been?
Mr Yeo: Perhaps I could make one
additional point. It is certainly the case at the moment that
most of the support the UK provides to the territories for biodiversity
conservation is through time-limited projects; primarily through
OTEP, but also to some extent through the Darwin Initiative. This
is very valuable but it is not any substitute, in the end, for
much more secure, long-term support for biodiversity conservation
and environmental protection within the Overseas Territories.
We firmly believe, therefore, that the resources that are made
available to the territories for biodiversity conservation must
be commensurate to the challengeand the challenge is enormous.
The global importance of the territories for biodiversity conservation
is undoubted and it is huge. If the Government are really going
to deliver their contribution towards the target to reduce the
rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, it is clear to us that more
resources are needed to support suitable measures within the territories.
Q61 Mr Caton: Yes, more resources
are needed, but as you said, Dr Fleming, it might not necessarily
be financial resources. Is enough being done to build up institutional
and knowledge capacity within the territories themselves?
Dr Fleming: That is fairly difficult
to answer without having a detailed knowledge of all the territories.
Within the territories, we see very talented and very dedicated
staff on the environmental side, but very often limited by the
size of the territories themselves. Even those territories which
have high GDP per capita, clearly if there are only 50,000 people
in the territory it does not generate an enormous amount of income
to use internally; and, of course, some of the territories themselves
have very small populations. Therefore, how you generate internal,
institutional capacity is potentially quite difficult.
Q62 Mr Caton: Would one way be for
the FCO or DfID to directly fund environmental posts in the territories?
Dr Fleming: Clearly, some means
of supporting posts, regardless of who it came from, might be
desirable. It does not happen at the moment, to my knowledge.
Q63 Mr Caton: What about those Overseas
Territories that are not inhabited, by humankind at least? Are
funds and management at the required level, and are there particular
problems with these because of the remote nature of the territories?
Dr Fleming: The remoteness of
some of the territories does give rise to particular challenges.
If you take some examples, within the Tristan da Cunha group or
within the Pitcairn Island group there are inhabited islands but
there are also uninhabited ones. Some of the uninhabited ones
are some of the most important seabird islands in the world, of
course. I think that you have heard from earlier evidence that
non-native speciesmaybe rats in the Pacific, maybe house
mice and other species on Tristan, or Gough Island in particularpose
a significant threat to breeding seabirds, albatrosses and petrels
in particular. Clearly, they pose significant logistical challenges
in terms of undertaking conservation action. You have to get people
out there and, if you were seeking to do an eradication programme,
you would need to be able to ship out tonnes of poison, and so
on. Certainly for Gough Island there is a study underway at the
moment into the feasibility of eradicating mice. That will come
up with a cost-benefit analysis and also a costed action plan.
I suspect that the resources required to do that will be substantial
and above the level that is available through OTEP at the moment.
With these big challenges, therefore, some means ideally need
to be found to be able to support them. OTEP can fund the feasibility
studies perhaps, but it would probably take more than its annual
resources to undertake the task which would deliver the greatest
Q64 Chairman: Do we share some of
this knowledge with other countries, which may themselves only
be at a developing statusI am thinking of the Galapagos
Islandswhich also have serious problems in terms of biodiversity
being threatened by, in that particular instance, tourism and
the arrival of cruise ferries, and hordes of Americans trampling
over everything? Is there a good mechanism for sharing our knowledge
Dr Fleming: There are a variety
of mechanisms for sharing knowledge. I will come back to tourism
and cruise ships in a moment but, coming back to non-native species,
New Zealand has the greatest capacity and technical knowledge
for eradicating non-native species from islands. New Zealand specialists
have been used in these various feasibility studies that I have
referred to. There is also, through the World Conservation Union,
an invasive species specialist group, a global invasive species
databaseall of which enable knowledge to be shared throughout
the entire community of those interested in non-native species.
On the tourism side, clearly that issue is quite a significant
one, especially for our Caribbean territories where cruise ship
tourism is very high. I am less certain about the mechanisms for
sharing information on that, but there are some web-based knowledge-sharing
mechanisms. The Global Island Network, if I have remembered it
correctly, is one such means. I think that there have been sustainable
tourism initiatives, initiated in part by FCO in the past, which
can clearly help with that. However, I have to say that the tourism
side per se is not really my main area of expertise.
Q65 Chairman: So your organisation
may not have made any representations on that sort of thing, where
we hear now that green tourism is the way out of poverty for many
of these areas?
Dr Fleming: We may not have made
many representations on that side of things in the past; but,
as I mentioned before, we now have an environmental economist
on our staff who is able to help look at that. We are also very
interested in taking the ecosystem approach to a whole range of
issues involving biodiversity. One of the advantages that the
Overseas Territories have is that they are fairly small, discrete
units, which enable you to take a holistic view of the planning
and management of development and the environment, without having
the complications of being a country the size of Britain with
a population our size. Perhaps in future, therefore, we will look
increasingly to advise on that. I think that the ecosystem approach
as promoted by the Convention on Biological Diversity is one such
means to try to take this bigger picture, tied in with valuation
of the environment. It is also important to consider that, as
you suggested in your question, the reason people go to Caribbean
islands is not necessarily to see thousands of other people; it
is for those features which make those islands special, and those
features are very often linked to the natural environment. People
go to dive on coral reefs or perhaps to enjoy bird-watching, and
Q66 Chairman: Do you think that there
are areas of biodiversity which are not related to climate change
but which, in terms of the FCO's priorities, may lose out because
of more of a focus on climate change?
Mr Yeo: If all the environmental
resources of the FCO were directed to climate change, it would
mean that there was not much left to address issues such as non-native
species, which are such a big issue for Overseas Territories and
other small islands. So, yes, certainly an exclusive focus on
climate change would be to the detriment of other areas of environmental
Q67 Chairman: I just want to come
back briefly to the issue of where the environment sits as a priority
in the work of the FCO. If we have seen, as you have suggested,
this reduction in effort at the core of the FCO, is that also
filtering out into our overseas posts?
Dr Fleming: It is very hard for
me to comment on that, not having a great deal of contact directly
with overseas posts. Where we do have such contact, it tends to
be through someone in Whitehall and therefore I do not feel qualified
to answer that.
Q68 Chairman: The concerns that you
do have, thoughand no doubt you have expressed those to
the FCOwhat has been their response, if any?
Mr Yeo: Their response is simply
that they are aligning their structures, their priorities, with
the 2006 White Paper and their Sustainable Development Strategy.
That is what is guiding their work and the structures to deliver
Q69 Chairman: So they are listening
kindly, but not necessarily paying attention?
Mr Yeo: Possibly.
Chairman: Thank you both very much for
coming and giving us your evidence this afternoon. That concludes