286. The Overseas Territories are rich in biodiversity.
Pitcairn, for example, supports more world endangered species
than its human population.
One of the proposals in the 1999 White Paper was that Environment
Charters should be negotiated between the Government, Overseas
Territory governments, the private sector, NGOs and local communities
to clarify the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in environmental
2003 Environment Charters had been signed with most Territories.
287. In 1999, a new £3 million Overseas
Territories Environment Programme (OTEP), a joint programme of
DFID and the FCO, was designed to support the implementation of
Environment Charters, and environmental management more generally,
in the UK Overseas Territories. This was then extended with an
annual budget of £1,000,000, FCO and DFID each providing
£500,000. It is a ringfenced commitment from the Global Opportunities
288. In 2007 the Environmental Audit Committee
(EAC) produced two Reports which commented on environmental governance
in the Overseas Territories. In its Report on the UN Millennium
Ecosystem Assessment, published in January 2007, the EAC expressed
concern about the continued threat of extinction of around 240
species in the Overseas Territories and argued that it was "distasteful"
that the FCO and DFID had said that the Territories should fund
protection of these species from their own resources.
The EAC urged the Government to increase funding for conservation
and ecosystem management in the Overseas Territories and to give
DEFRA joint responsibility with the FCO for delivering this.
289. The EAC returned to the issue in its Report
on Development and the Environment: the Role of the FCO. The Report
argued that the current funding situation appeared to be based
on what the FCO and DFID could spare, rather than a strategic
assessment of need, and reiterated its previous call for increased
funding. It recommended
that DEFRA should be involved at the highest level in reviewing
the Environmental Charters.
290. We received evidence from a number of environmental
organisations which told us that they strongly supported the EAC's
RSPB argued that many Overseas Territories lacked capacity and
resources to carry out effective environmental governance, but
that the FCO was nevertheless "abdicating responsibility"
to them. It argued that annual funding of £16 million was
needed and warned that if increased funding was not found endemic
species would "certainly" become extinct and ecosystems
"continue to deteriorate".
291. The Overseas Territories Conservation Forum
told us that despite their particular vulnerability to the loss
of biodiversity, the Overseas Territories lagged behind the UK
in terms of environmental protection. It argued that this was
due to a number of causes, including low political status, confusion
over responsibilities, "muddled" departmental responsibility
and "confusion" over the role of Governors.
292. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee
highlighted that there had been 39 recorded extinctions in the
Overseas Territories and called for better co-ordination of environmental
initiatives both in the UK and between Overseas Territory governments,
including for the Departmental Ministerial Group for Biodiversity
to "meet regularly and provide strong leadership and support
for the Overseas Territory governments".
BioDiplomacy alleged that Whitehall officials from all the different
Departments with responsibility for Overseas Territories appeared
to be playing:
"the classic "Yes, Minister" game
of pass-the-parcel: each player's aim being not to be left holding
the can of worms labelled "overseas territories" when
the music stops. 
293. When we were in the Cayman Islands, members
of the Cabinet showed us an 80-foot waste mountain, the highest
point on Cayman. They called for UK technical assistance with
waste management. We asked Meg Munn whether the Government would
be willing to provide this. She replied:
Certainly in relation to issues of technical assistance,
one of the things that I have been keen to do is to look to other
Departments where that might be appropriate. So, there is no problem
about us seeking to identify some technical support for that.
294. However, when we asked the FCO whether it
had any proposals to increase funding of the Overseas Territories
Environment Programme (OTEP). It told us that it had "no
plans" to do so. The FCO repeated the statement, criticised
by the EAC, that "responsibility for environmental issues
has been devolved to the individual Territories". As well
as the OTEP, it also highlighted insignificant sums provided to
Overseas Territories via DEFRA-funded programmes, which did not
come anywhere near the RSPB's assessment of required funding.
The FCO also told us:
DEFRA is the Whitehall lead on environmental issues.
As Meg Munn said in her oral evidence session to the Committee
on 26 March, there is scope for greater engagement in Overseas
Territory issues by other Whitehall Departments, including by
295. We agree with the Environmental
Audit Committee that the Government does not appear to have carried
out any kind of strategic assessment of Overseas Territories'
funding requirements for conservation and ecosystem management.
We conclude that given the vulnerability of Overseas Territories'
species and ecosystems, this lack of action by the Government
is highly negligent. The environmental funding currently being
provided by the UK to the Overseas Territories appears grossly
inadequate and we recommend that it should be increased. While
DEFRA is the lead Whitehall department responsible for environmental
issues, the FCO cannot abdicate responsibility for setting levels
of funding given its knowledge of Overseas Territories' capacity
and resources. The FCO must work with other government departments
to press for a proper assessment of current needs and the level
of the current funding gap and then ensure increased funding by
the Government through DEFRA, DFID or other government departments
is targeted appropriately.