HC 846 Sustainability in the Overseas Territories

Written evidence submitted by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds


· Knowledge of biodiversity in the UK Overseas Territories (OTs) remains inadequate, but it is apparent that many species are under threat.

· Improved strategy is needed. The promised Implementation Plan for the UK OTs Biodiversity Strategy could help to provide this through a prioritised, and adequately resourced workplan.

· The UK Government does not currently have enough capacity to deal with the diverse range of environmental issues in the UK OTs. Dedicated full-time staff are needed at Defra and DFID.

· Although the funds available to UK OTs have increased since 2008, more resources are needed. Funds such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and the EU’s LIFE+ fund remain closed to OTs.

· The government’s environmental mainstreaming programme should be supported and extended, and more policy support is needed.

· Recent government commitments to exemplary management of the environment in the uninhabited OTs should be welcomed. However, improvements in management are needed in the Cyprus SBAs where illegal bird killing remains a significant issue.

· Climate risks in the OTs do not appear to be adequately addressed at present. More information on DFID’s adaptation programme for OTs is needed.

· There are significant gaps in environmental governance in some of the OTs, and these need to be filled in order to enable sustainable development and protection of biodiversity.

· Marine protected areas can, if based on scientific criteria, make a significant contribution to conserving marine biodiversity in the OTs.


The RSPB is the UK partner of BirdLife International, a network of over 100 grass-roots conservation organisations around the world. As part of our commitment to the conservation of biodiversity worldwide, we have for over a decade, provided financial, technical and advisory support to emerging NGO partners and local governments in the UK OTs. We have over a million members in the UK, and they are highly supportive of our work in the OTs. This support is given in many ways, including through financial contributions to appeals and for major initiatives such as our work at Henderson Island.

Much of the RSPB’s work in the OTs assists them in meeting their commitments under the international conventions, including the Convention on Biological Diversity. Our response to this consultation covers all of the UK OTs. Our views on the specific issues raised by the Committee follow.

Specific Issues Identified by the Committee

1. How the UK Government is fulfilling its responsibilities to protect biodiversity in the UKOTs

1.1 The extent to which the UK Government is fulfilling its responsibility to protect the biodiversity of the Overseas Territories can be analysed against these six components: knowledge; strategy; capacity; funding; policy support; and delivery. Our assessment of each of these is set out below.



A. The UK Government should incorporate the outcomes of the FCO-funded Extinction Risk Assessment project into its OTs Biodiversity Strategy Implementation Plan.

B. Defra’s Research Directorate should instigate a definitive priority OT Biodiversity Research Programme, agreed with OT Governments, research institutions and civil society.

1.2 Assessments carried out to-date indicate that the biodiversity of the Overseas Territories biodiversity is under immense threat. There are a high number of threatened species in those groups of taxa that have been thoroughly assessed against the IUCN’s criteria for global threat classification (the IUCN Red List [1] ), e.g. there are 33 globally threatened birds that occur in the Overseas Territories, more than in the whole of Continental Europe.

1.3 On the Pitcairn Islands, for example, a total of 466 species have been recorded [2] . Of these, 146 have been assessed against the Red List criteria, and 41 of these are globally threatened: this is almost a third of those species assessed. Of the 15 endemic species assessed, all were found to be globally threatened. Only half of St Helena’s endemic plants, and only 2 of its 400+ endemic invertebrate species, have ever had their threat status assessed, so many of these could be on the brink of disappearing forever. [3]

1.4 Many groups of taxa, especially terrestrial invertebrates, lower plants, and marine species have not been well researched or been subject to international threat classification. It is therefore impossible to make an assessment of the status of much of the biodiversity of the Territories.

1.5 Without an improvement in knowledge, the UK Government cannot hope to be able to report accurately to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on whether or not it has made progress in meeting its 2020 target to halt biodiversity loss.

1.6 At present, threatened species in the UK OTs may be in danger of global extinction without awareness in the UK or internationally. The St. Helena Olive Tree’s (Nesiota eliptica) extinction in 2003 provides a clear example of the impact of this lack of knowledge. Other species have since been on the brink of extinction, e.g. the Bastard Gumwood (Commindendrum rotundifolium) but the concerted efforts of local conservationists and international partners (e.g. the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) have averted an extinction crisis.

1.7 Some biodiversity monitoring is carried out by OT Government Departments, as well as UK and OT non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and research institutions. New endemic species are being identified and catalogued through various conservation projects, some funded by the UK government. However, the data for different taxa and different OTs is scattered and there is no central coordination or strategic overview. Without this, there can be no clear idea of where limited resources should most urgently be focussed.

1.8 Given the lack of capacity for central coordination in the OTs, the UK Government should both facilitate the collation of existing data and improve the state of OT biodiversity knowledge if it is to be able to fulfil its responsibility to prevent further extinctions in the Territories. Defra’s Research Directorate should instigate an "OT Biodiversity Research Programme", agreed with OT Governments, research institutions and civil society.

1.9 The small population sizes in the OTs mean that many do not have the potential to develop local expertise in every aspect of their natural environments. To enable implementation of the suggested biodiversity research programme, access to the world-class skills of the UK’s government-funded institutions should be made available without the requirement for full cost-recovery; work in the OTs should be considered core work and there should be an internal budget at all government-funded institutions [4] for this work. Full cost-recovery (including overhead) requirements currently limit the involvement of many UK institutions in projects, to the detriment of both OTs, and the UK. The National Environment Research Council should be instructed to increase its role (and that of its research agencies) in promoting and supporting world class research in the OTs.

1.10 Recently, the FCO has provided the RSPB with a small amount of funding to begin assessing extinction risk in the OTs (the "Extinction Risk Assessment project"). This will entail collating existing species list and monitoring data and identifying the priority gaps for further conservation research and action. It will be the first collation of information and data gaps for all species across all 14 OTs and it is hoped that this process can both direct Government and civil society effort and enable more effective reporting to the CBD in 2020 on the status of the globally threatened biodiversity of the OTs.



C. The OTs Biodiversity Strategy Implementation Plan must include a prioritised, and adequately resourced workplan with concrete milestones leading up to 2020.

1.11 In 2009, Defra published the first UK OTs Biodiversity Strategy committing itself to lead work with the FCO and DFID to co-ordinate support for OT biodiversity conservation. This was a very welcome development which provided a top-level framework for cross-departmental working, but the Strategy contained no concrete targets or associated workplan. UK Government support has therefore remained non-strategic, with the result that limited resources have been spread thinly and perhaps not directed to the most important priorities.

1.12 In January 2012, Defra made the positive commitment to develop an Implementation Plan for the UK OTs Biodiversity Strategy. A meeting is scheduled for March 2013 where progress will be reviewed and future priorities discussed. To be effective, the priorities of OT Governments, communities and civil society will need to be incorporated, but the UK Government must also set out its own priorities, based on sound science.

1.13 To enable more strategic investment in future, Defra has funded the RSPB to carry out a prioritisation of island eradications of introduced alien vertebrate species across all 14 OTs. Given the devastating impact of these species, this is to be warmly welcomed, and this model of prioritisation should be developed in other areas.



D. Two full-time dedicated Overseas Territories biodiversity policy posts should be established within Defra, one for the inhabited, and one for the uninhabited OTs.

E. A multi-disciplinary Overseas Territories Taskforce of staff from different parts of Defra, and different areas of expertise should be established to support the OTs.

F. A full-time post should be established at DFID to take lead responsibility for environment and climate change in the Overseas Territories.

1.14 There is a chronic lack of capacity in the UK Government to fulfil its biodiversity responsibilities towards the Overseas Territories. The FCO is the currently the only one of the three departments responsible for the OTs Biodiversity Strategy which has a full-time staff member dedicated to environment and climate change issues in the OTs.

1.15 Defra, which has had lead department responsibility for OTs biodiversity since 2009, still does not have a single staff member with full-time OTs responsibility, nor did the Department make any mention of the OTs in its most recent business plan [5] . Given that the OTs are home to over 90% of the threatened biodiversity for which the UK is responsible, the RSPB considers this unacceptable. Staff capacity within Defra is needed to set the strategic direction of the OTs Biodiversity Strategy, guide its implementation and ensure that international commitments are met. Effective and proactive policy support to the small and stretched Environment Departments of the OTs is also required. At present many of our Territory partners report that they feel disconnected from Defra and find it difficult to access its support and advice.

1.16 The RSPB believes that at least two full-time, appropriately senior staff within Defra are needed (one for the inhabited and one for the uninhabited OTs). Such roles cannot be fulfilled by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), whose role is to be an independent scientific adviser to Government. Shaping policy engagement and directing departmental support to the OTs is clearly an appropriate activity for Defra staff.

1.17 Dedicated staff who are able to engage more proactively to build capacity in OT Governments, would be of great benefit. Such staff should work closely with the FCO, and would need the opportunity to visit the Territories themselves so as to gain first-hand experience and knowledge of their situations.

1.18 Recognising that there are significant staffing constraints within Defra at present, the full-time staff should be supported by a multi-disciplinary group of staff from different parts of Defra. Their job descriptions should contain a specific requirement to support the OTs in their area of expertise.

1.19 A lack of capacity also affects DFID, which is currently without a single staff member responsible for environment or climate change issues in the OTs, despite DFID having lead responsibility for international climate change adaptation. Whilst plans are apparently underway to recruit a new environment and climate change adviser, it is currently unclear whether this will be a full-time post. Given DFID’s responsibility for major infrastructure projects and budgetary aid in several Territories, as well as the department’s climate change adaptation role, the RSPB believes that a full-time staff member is essential.



G. The UK Government should be congratulated on the recent establishment of the Darwin Plus fund.

H. Funding should be increased for the next round of Darwin Plus from the current figure of £2 million / per year. This is one of the most cost-effective contributions that the UK Government could make to halting biodiversity loss.

I. All future funding rounds of Darwin Plus should be specifically linked to implementing the priorities of the UK OTs Biodiversity Strategy.

J. The number of Overseas Territories experts on the Darwin Committee should be increased significantly.

K. DCMS should give a policy signal that Overseas Territories are good candidates for Heritage Lottery Funding.

L. Defra and the FCO should negotiate to enable access to the EU’s environment financing instrument, LIFE+, for all EU Overseas Countries and Territories.

M. Defra, FCO and DFID should negotiate at Ministerial level to reinvigorate the EU BEST scheme on biodiversity and ecosystem services.

1.20 To-date, UK Government funding for biodiversity conservation in the OTs has been both inadequate and frequently non-strategic. An analysis in 2007 calculated that a minimum of £16 million per year for 5 years was required to meet the most urgent biodiversity priorities in the OTs. [6] International environment funds such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF) are closed to the Territories because of their UK (and thus developed country) status, but they are also excluded from access to UK and EU funds such as the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and LIFE+ programme. The UK Government is thus one of the only possible sources of funding.

1.21 In 2011/12, Defra provided funding of £2.96 million for biodiversity conservation in the UK OTs. This is a welcome improvement on the situation in 2007/08 when Defra spent just £152,379 in this area. However, it is equivalent to only £8,758 per globally threatened OT species. If increased funding is not identified, endemic OTs species for which the UK Government is responsible will certainly become extinct and the UK Government will fail to meet its international obligations.

1.22 The October 2012 launch of the new OTs Environment and Climate Change Fund (Darwin Plus) is a positive step. The fund brings together contributions of £2 million per year from FCO, DFID and Defra. Whilst this is not ‘new money’, it will enable existing funds to be deployed in a more strategic and effective manner, and the funding call for applications has sensibly given itself the flexibility to support both small and large projects. Given the scale of the challenge and the extreme cost-effectiveness of biodiversity spending in the OTs, increasing this amount available in this fund would represent extremely well-targeted environmental funding.

1.23 In order to ensure Darwin Plus funds are used strategically, increased OT conservation expertise needs to be used to make funding decisions. At present, the decision-making panel of Darwin Plus will be a sub-committee of the Darwin Committee, with welcome additional representation from the UK Overseas Territories Association (UKOTA). There is an absence of expertise from organisations with major cross-cutting conservation programmes in the OTs, such as RBG Kew or the RSPB, or any OT NGOs.

1.24 The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is one of the major funders of natural heritage work in the UK. Whilst legally permitted to fund conservation projects in the UK Overseas Territories, it has never done so, arguing that its policy directions from DCMS mean that it has to prioritise accessibility. In their paper detail ing their role in the OTs ( March 2012 ), DCMS said " There is no bar on Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) making [grants for work in the UKOTs] but HLF’s current policy is to treat any such applications as a low priority . "

1.25 The previous Minister for the Overseas Territories at the FCO, Henry Bellingham MP, made numerous speeches in 2011 announcing his determination to open up this much-needed funding source to the OTs, but appeared to meet with no success. If DCMS changed their policy directions to the HLF Trustees to allow consideration of applications from the OTs as an equal priority with UK applications, this could enable OT projects to be funded in future, and help alleviate the current funding shortfall.

1.26 The EU’s only dedicated environmental funding stream, LIFE+, is also closed to the UK OTs at present, in contrast to the French Overseas Departments (the DOMs), which have had access since 2007. There is no constitutional impediment to opening LIFE+ funding to the OTs, but there is political resistance in Europe. Negotiations on the next LIFE+ programming period (to run from 2014-2020) are currently underway. Opening LIFE+ to the OTs would not have any impact on the EU budget, but could bring major benefits on the ground. Defra and the FCO have been strong advocates on behalf of the OTs on this issue, but further efforts are required in the European Council if the current resistance is to be overcome.

1.27 The EU has recently developed a pilot funding scheme for all the Overseas Territories of Member States called the BEST initiative. [7] This has now received two of the three years pilot funding allowed, after which it must either become a permanent programme or be discontinued. There appears to be a significant lack of enthusiasm in the European Commission for the continuation of the BEST scheme, so the UK Government will need to make strong representations in order to ensure that the recent momentum built under the pilot scheme is not lost. Three projects that will involve seven UK OTs were funded in the 2012 round of BEST.



N. The UK Government’s environmental mainstreaming reviews should be supported and extended to all OTs.

O. A Policy Support Programme should be established, with initiatives such as secondments and twinning between OT Governments and UK Government Departments.

1.28 Environmental policy capacity is extremely limited on many of the UK OTs, and indeed several OT Government Environment Departments consist of less than five staff covering a vast array of urgent issues. Technical environmental policy support from Defra and the wider UK Government is therefore crucial in order to develop robust environmental frameworks. Whilst FCO, Defra, JNCC and DECC do now all provide a contact point or email address for OT assistance enquiries, it remains unclear what detailed assistance can actually be offered or delivered given the lack of OT-specific staff capacity in the UK Government. Moreover, the few staff in many OT Environment Departments are frequently often inundated with pressing and responsive work, and seldom have the opportunity to identify and discuss long-term policy support needs with the UK Government. UK Government officials meanwhile often have little detailed understanding or familiarity with the environmental policy frameworks of the OTs, largely due to not having the capacity to engage in further detail or visit an OT in person.

1.29 There are many policy areas where increased proactive support from the UK Government would be very helpful. We believe the following should be tackled in a first wave of assistance:

· biosecurity and invasive species policy;

· protected area designation and management;

· sustainable fisheries management; and

· climate change adaptation.

A Policy Assistance Programme could take several forms, such as short-stay secondment programmes from (or to) UK Government, assistance from legal departments of DECC, Defra, DFID, FCO, or twinning projects between OT Government Departments and UK Government Departments similar to those seen during EU enlargement between the UK and Eastern Europe.

1.30 The Environmental Mainstreaming exercises being supported by the FCO and JNCC (to date piloted in the British Virgin Islands and the Falkland Islands) are a welcome step in identifying environmental policy priorities and building local support for action. It is crucial that the momentum created by these exercises is not lost, and that the UK Government provides technical and financial support to ensure sufficient follow-up. Increasing Defra officials’ capacity to proactively engage UKOT Governments on environmental policy is thus crucial. Environmental mainstreaming reviews should also be systematically extended to the rest of the OTs.



P. The UK Government’s commitment to exemplary environmental management in the uninhabited OTs should be welcomed.

Q. An integrated joint-action plan to tackle illegal hunting in the Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs) should be developed. This should involve all relevant Cyprus and MoD/SBA authorities.

R. Disaster-preparedness should be considered for all OTs, and resourced appropriately to enable timely responses to future marine incidents.

1.31 The UK Government has direct responsibility for biodiversity conservation delivery in the uninhabited Territories and Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs). With regard to the former, the commitment in the recent OTs White Paper to "oversee exemplary environmental management in the uninhabited Territories" was very welcome, and the management of these Territories is largely good. In particular, Government support for the introduced mammal (rat, mouse and reindeer) eradication programme on South Georgia is appreciated.

1.32 However, the RSPB has significant concerns about biodiversity conservation delivery in the Cyprus SBAs (controlled by the Ministry of Defence, MOD), where illegal bird trapping is a significant problem. The situation has recently worsened considerably, and last year had the worst level of bird killing recorded for five years. Systematic monitoring by BirdLife Cyprus and the RSPB shows that, in recent years, levels of mist net use in the Dhekelia SBA have been much higher than in the areas policed by the Cyprus authorities.

1.33 It appears that a new legal loophole could worsen the situation. The Republic of Cyprus has recently modified its hunting legislation, introducing new penalties that can ultimately lead to the loss of hunting licences. The SBA hunting law has not been modified however, so that any hunters caught trapping in the SBAs do not face the same penalties or risk losing their licence if they reoffend. There seems to be no will to change the SBA law. This loophole needs to be closed urgently as this more lenient regime is incentivising illegal hunting activity within the SBAs.

1.34 The RSPB recommends the development of an integrated joint-action plan to tackle illegal hunting in the SBAs. This should involve all relevant Cyprus and MOD/SBA authorities, from enforcement to the judiciary, from education authorities to the legislature. The RSPB would also like to explore other less conventional solutions with the MOD to address this problem. These could include cutting down planted acacias (which are used for trapping) to declaring and establishing part of the prime trapping areas as a bird observatory and bird-ringing station, thereby reducing land available to trapping and aiding information gathering and enforcement.

1.35 The stranding of the MS Oliva in 2011, and before that, of an oil rig at Tristan da Cunha has highlighted the immense risk to the wildlife of the OTs from marine incident. In the case of the Oliva, the Tristan community made an incredible effort to protect their wildlife from harm, and indeed were awarded the RSPB medal in 2012 for their work. However, it was apparent that a lack of local preparedness (in terms of equipment and training) had some negative impact on wildlife. The RSPB believes that the UK government should consider preparedness for marine incidents for all of the OTs, and should provide appropriate resources locally to enable timely responses to any future incidents.

2. How the UK Government is helping the UKOTs adapt to the impact of climate change


S. Information should be requested on HMG’s response to the 2011 Foresight report that looked at climate risks in the Overseas Territories.

T. An explanation should be requested on what provision is made for climate change adaptation in the ten Territories not covered by DFID.

2.1 Almost all of the Overseas Territories have been identified by the IPCC as amongst the "most vulnerable" and "virtually certain to experience the most severe ecological impacts" of climate change, including biodiversity loss, sea-level rise, loss of infrastructure, increased extreme weather events, reductions in ecosystem services (such as crucial fisheries) and increased disease exposure. [8]

2.2 The impacts of climate change on the UK Overseas Territories were not considered in the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) which was required under the Climate Change Act 2008. However, the UK Government’s 2011 report, Foresight International Dimensions of Climate Change, did provide analysis of the implications of climate change on the OTs, identifying that the UK has "not only moral, political and legal obligations to give support... but also contingent liability for disasters caused by extreme weather events... and economic collapse due to failed ecosystems". [9] The report concluded that "UK Government departments do not act proactively to address adaptation in UK Overseas Territories, leaving them vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, with repercussions on the UK".

2.3 The economic impacts on the UK are likely to be significant, and the costs associated with adaptation measures are, in many cases, expected to be beyond the scope of these small economies. As the OTs are not eligible for financial support from UN Climate Funds due to their constitutional relationship with the UK, it falls to the UK to ensure both that adequate adaptation occurs and that it is sufficiently financed.

2.4 DFID has lead responsibility for international climate change adaptation, and did fund an adaptation project for the Caribbean Overseas Territories from 2007-2010. It is unclear however what, if any, strategic support is currently being offered and whether this is an adequate response to the serious risks. DFID’s recent (June 2012) summary of its work in the OTs makes no mention of climate change. [10] DFID’s overall business plan does have a specific target of relevance: "6.2.i Ensure that climate change risks and opportunities are identified and addressed across DFID’s country programmes and other major policy and spending areas through the implementation of Strategic Programme Reviews", [11] and DFID’s operational plan for the Overseas Territories mentions that a "strategic programme review in 2010 assessed the extent to which current OTD investments are at risk from climate change". [12]

2.5 This indicates that only the four Territories where DFID currently invests have been covered, with the remaining OTs excluded. Given DFID’s responsibility as lead department for adaptation, the significant contingent liabilities faced, and the apparent lack of an all-Territory approach, the RSPB recommends asking the UK Government how the ten other Territories are covered. The new Darwin Plus fund can fund climate change projects, but the £2 million per year currently in the fund is far from sufficient to meet the OTs climate and biodiversity priorities. The RSPB recommends investigating the establishment of a separate funding solution for climate change adaptation in the OTs once a review has been undertaken.

3. Whether the recommendations in our 2008 report, Halting Biodiversity Loss, on safeguarding biodiversity and practising joined-up Government to further conservation have been implemented


U. All relevant UK Government Departments should feed into the development of the OTs Biodiversity Strategy Implementation Plan, and responsibility for delivering the various components of its workplan should be clearly assigned to each Department.

3.1 With regard to practising joined-up government, progress has been made since the 2008 report. In 2009, Defra agreed to take the departmental lead on OTs biodiversity and published the UK Overseas Territories Biodiversity Strategy in conjunction with the FCO and DFID. This was extremely welcome progress.

3.2 Further progress in achieving joined-up Government occurred in July 2011, when the National Security Council (NSC) agreed in the context of a new OTs Strategy that "each UK Government Department should recognise its responsibility to engage with the territories in its area of competence and expertise", and required each Department to publish a paper outlining how it intended to discharge its responsibilities. [13]

3.3 These changes have created a much clearer structure. However, as outlined in paragraphs 1.15-1.19, the current lack of full-time OTs-focused staff within Defra or DFID is an obstacle to joined-up action, and other relevant Departments such as DCMS (responsible for natural World Heritage Sites) and MOD (responsible for the Cyprus SBAs) still appear to be on the sidelines. FCO and Defra work constructively and closely together, and the cross-departmental nature of the Darwin Plus fund is a positive development. However, until the upcoming Implementation Plan for the Biodiversity Strategy is completed, further cohesive and strategic cross-departmental action cannot take place.

3.4 The other main recommendations of the EAC’s 2008 report concerned funding and information for environmental protection. As outlined above, whilst environmental funding has increased to more than £2m per year in 2012, it is still far short of the amount required. The recommendation to conduct an ecosystem assessment in partnership with each OT to provide the baseline environmental data required has not been delivered. As outlined in paragraphs 1.2-1.10, an understanding of what species are present in what numbers and where on the OTs remains an urgent prerequisite to both halting biodiversity loss and achieving sustainable development.

4. The extent to which UK Government strategy on the UKOTs embodies the principles of sustainable development and appropriately trades-off environmental protection, social development and economic growth AND

whether UK Government strategy on the UKOTs is consistent with the conclusions and commitments on protecting biodiversity reached at the recent United Nations Rio+20 conference


V. The UK Government should ensure that all EU-funded projects in the Overseas Territories are subject to comprehensive EIA and SEA, and establish a mechanism to enable wider stakeholder involvement and oversight in development spending decisions.

W. DECC should introduce a more strategic approach of proactive support to Overseas Territories.

4.1 The RSPB believes that economic growth and social development can be achieved whilst also maintaining and enhancing environmental resources. We encourage the EAC to avoid the assumption that environmental protection needs to be "traded off" to achieve these other goals. Indeed, we believe that sustainable development can only be achieved in the presence of a healthy and functioning ecosystem, which provides the services that people rely on for life.

4.2 Many Overseas Territories communities are especially dependent upon the natural environment for their livelihoods, e.g. the Falklands Islands and Tristan da Cunha receive over half of their revenue from their fishing industries. Achieving sustainable development is thus both of vital importance and at the same time a considerable challenge for these small island communities. Water resources are frequently limited, recycling expensive when at such low volumes, electricity is often drawn from diesel-powered generators, and unique biodiversity may be especially vulnerable due to its extremely limited range and naivety to introduced species. Many OTs lack adequate development planning regimes to help achieve sustainable development. This means major developments can occur without the need for Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) or Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), at the expense of the environment and biodiversity.

4.3 It is not clear that UK Government strategy currently embodies the principles of sustainable development, especially given the limited knowledge of OT biodiversity and the lack of strategic overview on the part of the UK Government as to where environmental governance improvements are needed. At present there is a cross-government official-level working group on OTs Biodiversity, which is very welcome, but no group with a wider remit on sustainable development. Proactive input from relevant departments such as DECC appears limited.

4.4 The general development support provided by the European Union to the OTs is highly valued. The RSPB welcomes this support for the Territories, but notes that the funding processes followed by the European Development Fund (EDF) lack transparency. We are concerned that projects funded by the EDF often do not appear to be subject to EIA or SEA. This risks both undermining the natural environments on which Territory economies heavily depend, as well as causing conflict with environmental conservation projects. The UK Government should ensure that, at a minimum, all EDF-funded projects in the OTs are subject to SEA and EIA, and establish a mechanism whereby wider stakeholder involvement and oversight in development spending decisions is enabled.

4.5 The Rio+20 conclusions reiterated the importance of achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2020. Given that the OTs are home to at least 90% of the known threatened biodiversity for which the UK is responsible (and many more OT species are yet to be identified or have their conservation status assessed), the UK will not be able to meet its Rio+20 commitments without the development of a suitably ambitious and sufficiently resourced OTs Biodiversity Strategy Implementation Plan. Once that strategy is developed, Defra will also then need some full-time staff capacity to oversee its implementation. Given that OTs biodiversity received no mention in Defra’s Business Plan, there is cause for some concern that the scale of the response is not yet consistent with the ambitions declared at the Rio conference. At present further global extinctions in the OTs are considered likely.

4.6 The EAC’s observation in their 2008 report that providing more support to the OTs would be "one of the most important contributions that the Government could make to slowing catastrophic global biodiversity loss" remains true today. As the Committee said: "with leadership, and a relatively small sum of money, the incredible biodiversity found in our overseas territories can be safeguarded into the future". It is not until the UK works to adequately protect its own biodiversity that it will be able to advocate effectively on an international stage for further action to address the global loss of biodiversity.

4.7 The OTs are heavily reliant on fossil fuel imports to supply their energy. In order to reduce their emissions and improve their long-term energy security, investments in renewables and energy efficiency are required. DECC has lead responsibility for energy and climate change mitigation policy in the OTs, and in April 2012 published a departmental paper outlining its support to the Territories. [14] This document was very light on content, containing only four pages of text. Whilst it is welcome that DECC is now more actively engaged with the OTs and has committed to ‘respond positively to further ad-hoc requests for knowledge sharing’, [15] the introduction by DECC of a more strategic programme of proactive support would be a more appropriate response to the challenge faced.

4.8 As an example of what can be achieved, New Zealand has recently funded a £4.3 million solar project in its Territory of Tokelau, reducing dependence on diesel generation dramatically and making Tokelau the first territory able to meet all its electricity needs with solar power. [16]

5. How weaknesses in civil society and governance in the UKOTs impact on conservation


X. The FCO and DFID should review the state of civil society in the OTs in order to identify and remedy barriers to sustainable growth, and to deliver its White Paper commitment to good government.

Y. The UK Government will need to address outstanding environmental governance gaps if it is to fulfil the vision of its White Paper and ‘cherish’ the environments of the OTs.

Z. The FCO must use its Governors to advocate for strengthened environmental governance and the passage of long-stalled environmental legislation.

AA. The FCO must introduce clear safeguards to OT Governors’ roles in environmental decision-making to reduce personal latitude and improve transparency and accountability.

BB. The UK Government must work to swiftly complete terrestrial and marine protected area networks in all the uninhabited Territories and establish appropriate development controls where needed. We also encourage the UK Government to work with the governments of the inhabited Territories to encourage improvements in these areas.

CC. The UK Government should extend its ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity to all of the uninhabited Territories.

5.1 An active civil society can play a fundamental role in conserving biodiversity, through supporting governments in environmental policy development, undertaking monitoring, delivering on-the-ground action, and through their ability to hold decision-makers to account. Whilst several of the Territories are too small to ever sustain NGOs, others are of sufficient population size and wealth yet still lack much in the way of local civil society organisations.

5.2 Where they do exist, many Territory-based NGOs rely to a significant extent on funding from Territory governments, so are also not able to respond objectively when consulted on issues such as development proposals because they fear budget cuts if they raise concerns. Staff at these small organisations may also not have the skills and/or sufficient time to engage effectively in policy or planning processes. Limited OT civil society capacity and high staff turnover is a key issue, and this is exacerbated by the existing project-based funding streams for the Territories which make it difficult to develop organisations over the long term.

5.3 The RSPB considers that the FCO, through its Governors, should focus on creating an enabling environment and ensuring that technical support is available to NGOs, parastatial organisations such as National Park Trusts, as well as Territorial Governments. Governors also need to ensure that local organisations are consulted early and often on any development proposals, bearing in mind their limited capacity.

5.4 It is clear that the FCO and Governors have the ability to support the involvement of civil society in environmental decision-making and to promote good governance. However, in some Territories, legislation gives Governors the ability to make decisions, e.g. on development control, with no right of appeal and sometimes no local consultation. This is apposite to good and transparent governance and such legislation should be amended to avoid Governors having this sort of authority.

5.5 DFID has particular experience in nurturing civil society, and should work on strengthening civil society in all the Territories. Opportunities for civil society to deliver services, such as the management of National Parks, should also be explored at a strategic level.

5.6 To get an overview of what is needed, the FCO and DFID should review the state of civil society involvement in decision-making in the OTs in order to identify and remedy barriers to sustainable growth. This would also be a means of helping deliver the UK Government’s White Paper ambition to ensure good governance in the OTs.

5.7 UK-based NGOs can provide significant resources to OT biodiversity conservation but must always work closely with local OT partners to achieve effective and sustainable outcomes. As well as delivering on-the-ground conservation projects, the RSPB has a focus on developing local NGO partners and building local conservation capacity. To do this, the RSPB shares its organisational development expertise, as well as providing direct technical and financial support to 13 OT conservation bodies.

5.8 In some of the OTs which are too small to sustain a local NGO, the RSPB supports local Governments directly (e.g. by funding staff salaries in the Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha Conservation Departments). Our focus is to build capacity and strengthen links between the OTs as well as between the OTs and the UK. The RSPB aims to share all data collected in any OT with both Government and non-governmental partners from that OT. Data-sharing, consultation, partnership-working and respect for local environmental priorities are key to effective UK civil society support.

5.9 Good environmental governance is a fundamental requirement for effective conservation. The UK Government’s recent White Paper states that "Those Territories which choose to remain British should abide by the same basic standards of good government as in the UK". [17] The standard of environmental governance in the Territories is currently deeply variable. Many OTs have only basic or incomplete legislative and policy frameworks in place to protect and conserve their threatened biodiversity, and often lack the technical capacity to improve the situation due to their small size.

5.10 The greatest immediate environmental threat in many of the Caribbean OTs is the lack of appropriate development control regimes. There are no EIA or SEA requirements in Anguilla and Cayman so unrestricted development can destroy valuable habitats such as primary forest and mangroves. Transparent planning and development processes are also often lacking, which reduces the ability to obtain stakeholder involvement and increases the chances of corrupt practices or inappropriate developments being granted planning permission.

5.11 Several OTs still do not have networks of protected areas in place for their important terrestrial sites, whilst the marine environments of nearly all the OTs remain largely unprotected. This includes the uninhabited OTs where HMG has direct responsibility.

5.12 Many OTs have limited capacity to strengthen their environmental frameworks, whilst in some OTs efforts to improve governance have been stalled due to lack of political will. For example, the Cayman Islands draft National Conservation Bill (2007), Anguilla’s Physical Planning Bill (2001) and Montserrat’s Conservation and Environmental Management Bill (2008) have not yet been passed into law.

5.13 The UK Government recognises its responsibility to help the OTs protect their environments, but has made no overall assessment of the presence and adequacy of current environmental policy and legislation. Given the UK Government’s new strategic priority to strengthen good government, this is urgently needed.

5.14 The RSPB has therefore commissioned the independent Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development (FIELD) to assess the OTs’ biodiversity and development control frameworks in order to inform both OT Government activity and UK Government support. The report should be complete by the end of 2012, and the RSPB will submit it to the EAC as soon as it is completed. The UK Government will need to assist the OTs in addressing environmental governance gaps if it is to fulfil the vision of its White Paper and ‘cherish’ the environments of the OTs. It is anticipated that the FCO will need to provide increased legislative drafting capacity and use its Governors to advocate for strengthened environmental governance, whilst detailed technical support from and/or secondments of Defra’s policy experts will also be needed.

5.15 The Environment Charters are a positive aspect of the environmental frameworks of the OTs. These short documents set out a set of top-level principles and environmental commitments shared between HMG and the OT governments. However, in 2012, the sense of local ownership of the Charters in many Territories appears weak, and their extremely broad scope makes them difficult to implement given limited capacity. Their effectiveness is also limited by the fact that there is little to ensure compliance (on either side).

5.16 The UK is yet to extend its ratification of the CBD to any of the uninhabited Territories (although it has been extended to four inhabited Territories). Given the scale of its ambition in this area, this is something that should be completed as soon as possible.

6. How the introduction of ‘Marine Protected Areas’ could safeguard the marine environment in the uninhabited Territories


DD. The detailed environmental legislation and regulations required to fully establish the no-take MPA in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) should be developed and passed.

EE. The RSPB urges that the current South Georgia MPA is strengthened by introducing a clear prohibition on hydrocarbon and mineral extraction within the entire Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Territory. A comprehensive ‘no-take’ closed area should also be established around the entire South Sandwich Islands portion of the EEZ.

FF. In the build up to the July 2013 CCAMLR MPA meeting, the UK government should seek to expand its BAT MPA proposals using the scientific data available.

GG. The UK Government should facilitate a process of strengthening the environmental management of the new fishery at Ascension Island and identifying and protecting the areas of highest biodiversity value in Ascension’s waters.

HH. The UK Government must build on the outcomes of the 2012 mainstreaming review by supporting the identification and designation of a science-based MPA network in Falkland waters before this is pre-empted by the expansion of its rapidly growing oil industry.

6.1 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) can play a very important role in safeguarding areas of important marine biodiversity, and the Aichi targets include a commitment to have 10% of coastal and marine areas under protected area management by 2020. As categorised by the IUCN, a diverse range of MPAs can be introduced, ranging from highly protected areas which prohibit all extractive activities, to those where some natural resource use compatible with nature conservation is seen as a principle management aim. [18] The RSPB strongly recommends the use of a science-based approach to MPA designation which takes into account both biodiversity importance and conservation threat, and supports the use of the full range of protection categories as most appropriate on a case-by-case basis.

6.2 The BIOT is home to the world’s largest coral atoll and one of the healthiest reef systems on the planet, and so is of international significance for its marine biodiversity. In April 2010, the UK Government declared the entire Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of this Territory a ‘no-take’ Marine Protected Area and stopped issuing commercial fishing licences there. To date, this remains the largest no-take MPA in the world. The RSPB supports the declaration of this MPA as it was declared ‘without prejudice’ to the ongoing legal process of the displaced Chagossian people. However that whilst the EEZ has been declared to be a MPA, and commercial fishing licences are no longer issued, the administration of the BIOT Government has still not passed the promised legislation to prohibit extractive activities such as commercial fishing or marine mining. At present, the MPA therefore appears to remain, in legal terms, little more than a name. The RSPB therefore recommends that the detailed environmental legislation and regulations required to protect BIOT’s seas and fully establish the MPA are developed and passed.

6.3 The uninhabited Territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) holds exceptional marine biodiversity, supporting albatross, penguin, seal and whale populations of global significance. The SGSSI Government allows licensed commercial fishing within the EEZ, and depends heavily on the income this generates. This fishing is conducted within a robust quota and licensing system which the RSPB uses as a case study of excellent management, and there is good enforcement capacity to detect IUU (Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported) fishing.

6.4 The RSPB welcomed the February 2012 declaration of a large sustainable-use MPA and ban on bottom-trawling in SGSSI’s EEZ, as well as the declaration of no-take protection in the inshore zones around the islands, as a positive first step in strengthening the conservation of this important area. Given the relatively pristine nature of SGSSI’s EEZ, and the potential catastrophic impact that a marine accident could have in this extremely remote and inhospitable environment, the RSPB also urges that the current provisions are strengthened by introducing a clear prohibition on hydrocarbon and mineral extraction within the entire EEZ.

6.5 A consultation on additional spatial and temporal closed areas within the overall MPA was conducted by the SGSSI Government in October 2012. This is an excellent opportunity to markedly enhance the Territory’s marine protection. Protected area designation should take a precautionary approach, based on scientific analysis of areas of significant importance to vulnerable species. With specific regard to SGSSI, the marine environment of the South Sandwich Islands (SSI) is one of the most pristine remaining in the Southern Ocean. Designating a no-take zone in the entire SSI section of the EEZ would protect marine biodiversity of international significance, provide a major contribution to the Aichi MPA target, and have minimal impact on the SGSSI fishing industry (which is concentrated in South Georgia waters). As a high priority, the RSPB therefore urges that a comprehensive ‘no-take’ closed area be established, including the entire SSI EEZ.

6.6 In 2009, the UK proposal for the world’s first high-seas no-take MPA, located south of the South Orkney Islands, was agreed through CCAMLR. Building on this welcome progress, the UK Government has since proposed to enhance protection in areas exposed by collapsed ice sheets around the Antarctic Peninsular, though the October 2012 meeting of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) failed to agree to this or any other MPA proposals.  However, we also note that at the moment the UK’s MPA proposal does not cover any offshore areas, or protect foraging ranges of key species such as penguins in the area. BirdLife International has identified marine Important Bird Areas (mIBAs) around the British Antarctic Territory (BAT) based on information on foraging areas for pelagic seabirds, and we recommend that in the build up to the July 2013 CCAMLR MPA meeting the UK government seeks to expand its BAT MPA proposals with this scientific data.

6.7 Ascension Island has no indigenous or permanent population (its inhabitants have no right of abode). Its marine environment is of great significance, with the island home to the second most important green turtle breeding site in the Atlantic. Since 2010, the Ascension Island Government has issued over 125 commercial long-line fishing licences for tuna and tuna-like species to vessels flagged in Taiwan, Korea, China, Philippines and Japan. Ascension has no MPAs at present and no stock assessments have yet been carried out. There is documented evidence that non-target species such as the critically endangered leatherback turtle are being caught by fisheries close to the Ascension EEZ, so it is possible that bycatch may be an issue in this fishery. The RSPB has already offered its assistance to the Ascension Island Government to work together to ensure this new fishery is sustainable, and recommends that the UK Government facilitates a process of strengthening sustainable fishery management and identifying and protecting the areas of highest biodiversity value in Ascension’s waters.

30 November 2012

[1] See http://www.iucnredlist.org/

[2] See http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/pitcairn_island.pdf .

[3] F or example f ive endemic St Helena weevil species currently persist on just two remaining mature St Helena She Cabbage trees which survive on the island, yet since they have not been formally classified as threatened it is extremely difficult to raise funds to address their plight.

[4] Especially the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, the Food and Environment Research Agency, CEFAS, the British Antarctic Survey, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

[5] http://transparency.number10.gov.uk/business-plan/10

[6] The ‘Costing Biodiversity Conservation Priorities in the UK Overseas Territories’ report is available on the RSPB website at: http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/ukotfinancingcons_tcm9-158352.pdf .

[7] The voluntary scheme for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services in the European Overseas Territories (BEST) is a follow-up to the ‘Message from Reunion’. It originally aimed to establish a voluntary scheme for the protection of species and habitats, inspired by the Natura 2000 approach.

[8] See ‘ Climate Change 2007 (AR4): Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ’, edited by Parry, M.L., O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson (2007).

[9] Foresight International Dimensions of Climate Change (2011). The Government Office for Science, London. http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/foresight/docs/international-dimensions/11-1042-international-dimensions-of-climate-change

[10] Available at: http://www. DFID .gov.uk/Documents/publications1/op/ovseas-terr-dept-2011-summary.pdf

[11] The climate change commitments of DFID’s Business Plan are available at: http://transparency.number10.gov.uk/business-plan/12/52

[12] DFID Overseas Territories Department Operational Plan 2011 - 2015 is available at: http://www. DFID .gov.uk/Documents/publications1/op/ovseas-terr-dept-2011.pdf

[13] The Written Ministerial Statement from the FCO outlining the NSC’s decision is available at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110914/wmstext/110914m0001.htm#11091465000014

[14] Available at: http://www.decc.gov.uk/assets/decc/11/tackling-climate-change/international-climate-change/5028-decc-support-for-the-overseas-territories.pdf

[15] Ibid.

[16] See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20233754 .

[17] The 2012 Overseas Territories White Paper, ‘ Security, Success & Sustainability ’, is available at: http://www.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/pdf/publications/overseas-territories-white-paper-0612/ot-wp-0612

[18] See pages 9-10 of IUCN guidelines: https://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/iucn_categoriesmpa_eng.pdf

Prepared 14th January 2013