HC 846 Sustainability in the Overseas Territories

Written evidence submitted by the Institute of Ecology and
Environment Management

Summary

· IEEM welcomes the importance that the Government is starting to attach to the sustainable development within the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs), especially in acknowledgement of the biodiversity that the UKOTs support.

· IEEM also recognises the UKOTs as a priority area and has recently established an Overseas Territories Special Interest Group (OT-SIG).

· The UK Government’s strategy for the UKOTs does incorporate the principles of sustainable development and discusses the need for the protection of biodiversity. Whilst the strategy identifies ways forward with regards to sustainable development, it is not clear how the UK Government intends to facilitate, generate or incentivise the relationships needed.

· In addition, more information is required as to how the UK Government will ensure that environmental factors are taken into consideration during the UKOTs development consents process.

· The IEEM OT-SIG is now building a network of partnerships across the UKOTs and their UK-based stakeholders to assist in co-ordinating, facilitating and supporting the balanced implementation of sustainable development, protection of biodiversity, climate change adaptation and the introduction of Marine Protected Areas within the UKOTs.

Introduction

1. The Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM) aims to develop the science, technology and practice of ecology and environmental management for the benefit of people and biodiversity. As such, sustainable development is of paramount importance to its members. IEEM welcomes the importance that the Government is starting to attach to the sustainable development within the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs), especially in acknowledgement of the biodiversity that the UKOTs support. IEEM also recognises the UKOTs as a priority area and has therefore recently established an Overseas Territories Special Interest Group (OT-SIG).

UK Government Strategy on the UKOTs

2. IEEM acknowledges the need for truly sustainable development within the inhabited UKOTs. This will allow them to grow within the international economy and meet the demands of inhabitants. The UK Government Strategy does acknowledge the key drivers for sustainable development. In light of the habitats and species present on this diverse range of territories, the UK Government must seek to do more to ensure that Territory Governments place "environmental consideration at the heart of decision-making" to balance the competing interests across the three pillars of sustainability (environmental, social and economic).

3. It still remains to be seen how the UK strategy will be translated into Territory policies, regulatory frameworks and decision-making and then implemented objectively. The UK Government needs to work more closely with the UKOTs administrations and local experts to ensure that the true ‘value’ of the ecological resources present is formally recognised by the Territory Governments. By working with local administrations and experts, the UK Government will achieve a true representation of how policies on paper are reflected on the ground and in the decision-making process. These working relationships needs to be facilitated (and possibly part-funded) by the UK Government in order to meet the goals of "strengthening the links between the Territories and the UK".

4. Developments should be objectively ‘screened’ against ecological and other environmental criteria and for larger development formal assessments (such as Environmental Impact Assessments) should be undertaken to determine the true nature and extent of any potential environmental impacts. Only once this has been done, can the facets of sustainable development be reviewed and the appropriate decisions made.

5. As mentioned in the recent White Paper, UK experts not only have a lot to offer the UKOTs, but can also learn a lot from the UKOTs. In-country experts will be vital to the surveying and recording of the species and habitats present. These experts should be encouraged to pass on these skills to other inhabitants of the UKOTs. This ‘educating’ of future in-country surveyors, by current in-country surveyors and supported by others, is the only way that future developments (and the development process) will become truly sustainable.

6. The UK is a heavily developed country (unlike large portions of the UKOTs). As such, UK ecologists and land-managers are experienced in indentifying potential impacts associated with a development and proposing mitigation measures to reduce these impacts. They are also experienced in undertaking robust, repeatable surveys to establish baselines against which the effects of these predicted impacts can be measured. These skills (especially impact assessment) can be used to support in-country ecologists and decision-makers. This will ensure that all future development projects within the UKOTs acknowledge potential impacts and weigh these up against other considerations (such as those of an economic or social nature).

7. The promotion and development of relationships between the UKOTs and the UK should therefore be a key goal of the UK Government strategy. This includes raising awareness of the UKOTs within the UK, identifying relevant bodies within the UK to support the UKOTs and facilitating dialogue between these parties.

8. It is promising to see the Government discussing both the ‘protection’ and ‘management’ of ecological resources within the UKOTs. However, more information is required regarding the funding for these works and the responsibilities associated with monitoring the management measures. In addition, it would be beneficial to the UKOTs to see the ‘enhancement’ of their ecological resources.

9. Protecting the ecological integrity of the UKOTs is paramount to the sustainable development of the Territories. This involves identifying what is present, the sensitivities of the receptors, the risk these receptors face and what techniques work best at avoiding impacts on these receptors. In addition, it relies on the legal protection of the most important species and habitats. This protection needs to be monitored and enforced to ensure the protection of the most valuable and important ecosystems within the UKOTs. Without this formal protection it is harder to ensure that ecology factors into the decision-making process for developments.

10. The UK Government’s strategy for the UKOTs incorporates the principles of sustainable development and discusses the need for the protection of biodiversity. In addition, the White Paper provides examples of how activities such as tourism and fishing have been made sustainable with regards to ecological receptors. Whilst the strategy identifies ways forward with regards to sustainable development within the UKOTs, it is not clear how the UK Government intends to facilitate, generate or incentivise the relationships needed. In addition, more information is required as to how the UK Government will ensure that environmental factors are taken into consideration during the UKOTs development consents process. It is likely that much stricter protection of the UKOTs ecological assets will be required before they will fully feature in development decisions.

IEEM as Part of the Solution

11. It was recognised in informal discussions in November 2011 with representative of both the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum (UKOTCF) and Joint Nature Conservation Council (JNCC) that IEEM members would be well placed to provide the UKOTs with information on best practice, governance and professional standards. Our members, through the IEEM OT-SIG, have expertise that covers not just ecological aspects, but also wider planning, EIA and sustainability considerations. These resources might be utilised in the form of the provision of electronic resources and documents, provision of visiting resources to the OTs, and through capacity building to develop appropriate skills for in-country ecologists, environmental managers and decision-makers.

12. The areas where there is most opportunity for the IEEM OT-SIG to provide input are through:

· volunteers working on the ground supporting local projects;

· professionals providing remote or on the ground mentoring and specialist inputs to local initiatives;

· identifying and assisting in applying for funding through a range of mechanisms; and

· capacity building and support to local government organisations, communities, NGOs and other conservation bodies.

13. The IEEM OT-SIG is now establishing relationships with the view to building a network of partnerships across the UKOTs and their UK-based stakeholders to assist in co-ordinating, facilitating and supporting the balanced implementation of sustainable development, protection of biodiversity, climate change adaptation and the introduction of Marine Protected Areas within the UKOTs.

7 January 2013

Prepared 25th January 2013