HC 846 Sustainability in the Overseas Territories

Written evidence submitted by the UK Overseas Territories Association

1. Introduction

The United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association (UKOTA) welcomes the Environmental Audit Committee’s Inquiry on this important issue. We will respond to several of the specific questions posed by the Committee.

1.2 The Territories are home to approximately 90% of the UK’s biodiversity, including many species which are endemic to the territories. All the territories depend on these assets in some way-for example, tourism or fisheries.

1.3 UKOTA offer membership to all inhabited territories; the current members are Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, St Helena and Tristan da Cunha.

2. 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.

2.1 The UK Government White Paper (June 2012) embodies the principles of sustainable development with an explicit focus on economy, society and the environment – the three pillars of sustainable development.

2.2 Funding has been provided, in particular to the Official Development Assistance (ODA) eligible territories through DFID to stimulate economic development. All projects are subject to "Climate and Environment Assessment" (CEA) process. This is mandatory for all projects over £400.

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

3.1 Following the publication of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Biodiversity Strategy in December 2009, the Overseas Territories Biodiversity Strategy Group (OTBG) was set up to monitor the progress. The FCO, DFID, JNCC, RBG Kew, DEFRA, DECC and UKOTA are all represented on this group. There is evidence of a significant improvement with cross HMG department input into biodiversity in the OTs and engagement with the territories. The Strategy is being implemented by a wide range of UK Government actions, which have grown in scope and significance since publication of the document.

3.2 The OTBG organised a workshop in September 2011 for the London based Representatives of the territories on Multilateral Environment Agreements (MEAs). This was a useful session but links into MEA processes need to be specifically tailored to the OT situation and capacity – this will reduce the burden of the OTs signing up to MEAs.

3.3 A workshop organised by JNCC on behalf DEFRA "Review of Progress on Implementation of the UK OT Biodiversity Strategy" will be held on 14 March 2013. DEFRA will provide funding to enable participation from the OTs. It is important that the views of the people in the territories who are involved on a day-to-day basis are taken into account in respect of progress on the strategy rather than the perceived views of outside organisations. UKOTA is also working with JNCC to engage the services of a consultant in order to help the OTs prepare for the meeting in March and assist them to collate information which can provide the basis for understanding biodiversity priorities established by the OTs themselves, the actions already taken to address these priorities and further actions required.

3.4 JNCC has worked with UKOTA to provide funding for two Scholarships to build capacity in the OTs. A student (from Bermuda) completed BSc (Hons) degree in Applied Ecology and Conservation and another student (from Anguilla) completed a MSc in Environmental Management – both at the University of Reading.

3.5 HMG has provided support to the OTs via dedicated contact points in the relevant HMG departments.

3.6 Funding for projects has been made available. While there is never enough in the current financial climate, UKOTA welcomed the announcement in October 2012 of Darwin Plus which combines all previous HMG funding sources. This fund will disburse around £2 million per year dedicated to environmental and conservation projects in the OTs. The remit of the new fund will be broad, incorporating both biodiversity-related issues funded under the Darwin Initiative, as well as the broader range of environment and climate-related issues funded under OTEP. The new Fund will continue to be accessible to OT Governments, NGOs, research institutions, the private sector and other stakeholders.

3.7 OTEP dispersed £8m through more than 140 projects across the Territories. Through the Darwin Initiative, approximately £5.2m has been spent to date on OT projects.

3.8 JNCC has closely aligned its OT work to the Strategy and, with the exception of climate change, worked to address the key strategic themes identified by the Strategy. This support involves funding of approximately £1.4 million on a wide range of small scale projects within the OTs; implementing strategic projects on its own behalf and on behalf of UK Government departments; working to increase the capacity of the OTs through training and also by establish working links between the OTs and relevant UK institutions. JNCC is currently

managing, or involved in, approximately 30 projects ranging from support for small scale OT specific projects through to strategic projects managed on behalf of the FCO or DEFRA, including the environmental mainstreaming work. The environmental mainstreaming which started with BVI and the Falklands has now been extended to Cayman and Anguilla.

3.9 UKOTA welcomes the support of HMG (DEFRA and FCO) in their efforts to have the Regulations for Life Plus amended to enable OTs to access this import source of funding.

3.10 UKOTA is of the view that while there has been considerable focus on the Terrestrial environment there has been less focus on the Marine environment. Of particular concern is rapid increase of lionfish in the Caribbean waters and the impact this will have on the native species.

4. How the UK Government is helping the OTs adapt to climate change

4.1 The key long-term threat faced by the Territories is climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified the Territories as amongst the "most vulnerable" and "virtually certain to experience the most severe impacts" of climate change. This will mean sea level rise; changes in weather patterns, including higher intensity of extreme weather events; coral bleaching; ocean acidification; and sea temperature changes. Other immediate threats include land use change; waste management; invasive species; and threats to habitats from unsustainable development.

4.2 A desk study entitled "Addressing Climate Change by Promoting Low Carbon Climate Resilient Development in the UK Overseas Territories "was funded by DFID, IMC was contracted in February 2012 to undertake the research. On reflection the TORs were too ambitious and the quality of the data collected questionable. The project steering group, on which UKOTA was represented, is in the process of deciding what the next steps are.

4.3 The DFID funded a project over a four year period which enabled the Caribbean Territories to participate in the regional project "Enhancing Capacity for Adaptation to Climate Change in the Caribbean Overseas Territories". The report was largely welcomed; the recommendations were applicable and relevant to the needs of the territories. Some UK OTs produced a Climate Change strategy as a result of this, but funding was not available to implement the recommendations. With the current financial climate territories do not have the resources to implement the recommendations of the strategy – funding from DFID is restricted to the OAD eligible territories.

4.4 Climate Change impacts on all OTs and access to funding is crucial (for all) if OTs are to implement appropriate Adaptation and Mitigating strategies. As OTs we are unable to access international funding streams for example Global Environment Facility (GEF). HMG created the £2.9 billion UK International Climate Fund (ICF) in 2011 to cover the period 2011 – 2015 – however, OTs do not appear to be in a position to benefit from this fund. Whilst in theory they are eligible, none of them fall into any priority categories that govern spending decisions of the fund.

4.5 UKOTA recommends that a dedicated fund is set up to address Climate Change in the OTs.

5. Whether the recommendations in the 2008 report "Halting biodiversity loss" on safeguarding biodiversity and practising joined-up government to further conservation have been implemented.

5.1 The Government has a clear moral and legal duty to help protect the biodiversity of the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, where it is the eleventh hour for many species. We are extremely concerned that recommendations that we have made in the past that would have helped to protect the environment of the Overseas Territories have been ignored. The Government must: adopt a truly joined-up approach to environmental protection the UKOTs and Crown Dependencies, by bringing together all relevant departments including the FCO, MoJ, DfID, Defra, DCMS and MoD with the governments of the UKOTs.

The Overseas Territories Biodiversity Group (OTBG) has been created to provide the linkages suggested in the recommendation. UKOTA provides the OT representation on the group. This is also evident with the creation of the Darwin Plus, bringing together the funds from the HMG departments for environmental projects.

5.2 make better use of the Inter-Departmental Group on biodiversity

This was superseded by the OTBG. There has been significant increase in the engagement with the OTs. Environmental contact persons were identified by the territories.

5.3 to provide more oversight and support for the development and implementation of effective environmental protection policy in the UKOTs, and expand the Group to include other relevant departments;

Some OTs has received support in this area. The Environment mainstreaming projects assist OTs to incorporate environmental policy into their strategic planning process. Some OTs have also received assistance with drafting of legislation etc. Assistance has also been provided through DFID to ODA eligible OTs with TC funded personnel to provide specialist advice and support these areas.

5.4 have Defra assume joint responsibility for the UKOTs, and reflect this in future spending settlements;

DEFRA lead on the OTBG, and lead on the recently created ‘Darwin Plus’ project funding which provides a cross HMG combined approach to funding biodiversity and environment projects in the OTs.

5.6 address the dire lack of funds and information for environmental protection in the UKOTs.

This has been addressed in sections 3 and 4.

5.7 An ecosystem assessment should be conducted in partnership with each UKOT in order to provide the baseline environmental data required and to outline the effective response options needed to halt biodiversity loss.

5.8 With leadership, and a relatively small sum of money, the incredible biodiversity found in our overseas territories can be safeguarded into the future. One of the most important contributions that the Government could make to slowing the catastrophic global biodiversity loss currently occurring would be to accept its responsibilities and to provide more support for the UK Overseas Territories in this area.

Biodiversity protection has to be collaboration between OTs and HMG. Funding is an important and vital component of this collaboration as are other areas of technical and advisory support. The short-term nature of project funding does not enable long-term sustainable planning and implementation. It is recommended that a long-term, programme approach to funding is considered as an alternative.

One size does not fit all OTs, there are many similarities but there are also many differences in terms of scale, location, population etc that have significant impacts on conservation in each OT and their ability to manage all of the threats to biodiversity.

6. Whether UK Government strategy on the UK OTs is consistent with the conclusions and commitments on protecting biodiversity reached at the recent United Nations Rio + 20 conference.

6.1 While UKOTA does not wish to respond directly to the question posed, an area of weakness and concern to the territories is the lack of an established mechanism to advise territories of, and to solicit their views prior to International conferences which discuss environmental issues that could impact on the territories.

7. How weaknesses in civil society and governance in the UK OTs impact on conservation.

7.1 UKOTA does not wish to comment on this.

8. How the introduction of "Marine Protected Areas" could safeguard the marine environment in the uninhabited territories.

8.1 UKOTA does not represent the uninhabited territories and cannot, therefore, make any comment directly related to the question. However, we are aware that the Pew Group has been in contact with some of our members with a view to developing MPAs. Their representatives are currently on Tristan da Cunha having discussions. While there is value in investigating this, it is important that the Territory Governments are engaged to ensure the livelihoods of the people are not compromised.

29 November 2012

Prepared 14th January 2013