The UK’s footprint on global biodiversity Contents


1.In June 2021 we published a report Biodiversity in the UK: bloom or bust? The report examined the state of biodiversity in the UK and made recommendations for action to improve domestic biodiversity levels.1 Addressing biodiversity loss in the UK is only half the issue. The actions, decisions and consumption patterns of the UK affect biodiversity levels globally as well as domestically. This report examines the UK’s relationship with international biodiversity loss and evaluates the potential contribution the UK can make to the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems globally.

Box 1: Biodiversity

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity defines biodiversity as the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems. In simpler terms, biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth.

Source: UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Article 2. Use of Terms (1992)

2.The world is experiencing a colossal decline in global biodiversity, a trend we detailed in our earlier report. One million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction.2 Most terrestrial biomes are damaged,3 and since 1970 there has been a 68 percent decrease in population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish.4

3.It is not too late to change course. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has concluded that through urgent ‘transformative change’, the trend of continued biodiversity loss can be reversed.5 To achieve this on a global scale developed economies need to lower their total consumption and waste, and pre-emptive and precautionary actions on the part of governments and businesses alike are necessary to avoid, mitigate and remedy the deterioration of nature.6

4.This report examines the UK’s international role in delivering the transformative change necessary to reverse biodiversity loss. In this report we examine four aspects of the UK’s relationship with global biodiversity:

a)The UK’s consumption patterns, trade arrangements and supply chains;

b)The state of biodiversity in the UK Overseas Territories;

c)The UK’s contribution to international development and conservation; and

d)The outcomes the UK should advocate at two major international conferences opening in October and November 2021—UNCBD COP15 and UNFCCC COP26.

Background to the inquiry

5.We launched this inquiry in July 2020. Our objective was to examine the Government’s progress in achieving international and domestic biodiversity targets in preparation for the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). During the inquiry, we also sought to examine the state of biodiversity in the UK, and how the UK could best protect and enhance biodiversity, by examining:

a)domestic biodiversity policy and action;

b)how biodiversity factors into the Government’s economic decision-making;

c)the effect UK activities have on biodiversity abroad; and

d)the outcomes and protections the UK Government should be advocating at COP15.

6.We received 69 written responses and held six public evidence sessions, hearing from 30 witnesses including academics, environmental NGOs, intergovernmental organisations, independent public bodies, Government advisors, farmers and private sector actors from the finance, infrastructure, and food industries. To conclude the oral evidence to the inquiry, we heard from Rt Hon George Eustice MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Rt Hon the Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, Minister for Pacific and the Environment at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP, Minister for Housing at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government; and Kemi Badenoch MP, then Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury.

7.Our work on this inquiry builds on the Environmental Audit Committee inquiries into Sustainable Seas7 and Invasive Species8 undertaken in previous Parliaments. Given the broad scope of the overall inquiry, we chose to make two reports to the House. In our first report, published in June 2021, we examined biodiversity in the UK and domestic biodiversity policy and action. In this report, we examine the relationship between the UK and global biodiversity loss and the outcomes the UK Government should advocate at COP15 and COP26. The two reports are intended to be read in conjunction.

1 Environmental Audit Committee, First Report of Session 2021–22, Biodiversity in the UK: bloom or bust?, HC 136

7 Environmental Audit Committee, Fourteenth Report of Session 2017–19, Sustainable Seas, HC 980

8 Environmental Audit Committee, First Report of Session 2019, Invasive Species, HC 88

Published: 30 September 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement