Friday, 21 December 2007

European Council Agree to Include Aircraft Emissions in Trading Scheme

The European Council has agreed to include aircraft emissions in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme from 2012. The Council reached a political agreement yesterday, 20 December 2007. Aviation emissions will be capped at 100% of the average 2004-2006 levels, beginning in 2012.

The agreement will be adopted as a "common position" during 2008, before a second reading by the European Parliament.

Read the press release from the European Commission.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

House of Lords Science Committee Launch Inquiry into Systematics and Taxonomy

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has launched a follow-up inquiry focussing on systematic biology research and taxonomy. The call for evidence follows the Committee's 2002 report "What on Earth? The Threat to the Science Underpinning Conservation."

The Committee is seeking detail on progress made since 2002 and how far the recommendations made by the Committee in their original report have been taken up.

Written submissions are required by 4 February 2008.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

EFRA Committee announces launch of Nitrates Inquiry

The EFRA Select Committee has announced an Inquiry into the implementation of the Nitrates Directive in England. The Committee is seeking evidence further to that provided to DEFRA in its consultation into implementation of the 1991 Directive, which closed on 13 December 2007.

Evidence is requested on several areas including the effectiveness of the Nitrates Directive in reducing nitrate pollution.

The Committee will use written evidence as the basis for a single evidence session. Written submissions are required by 21 January 2008. Details on how to submit evidence can be found at

Government publishes response to "Climate change: the citizen's agenda"

The Government has published its response to the EFRA Select Committee's report, "Climate change: the citizen's agenda." Since the launch of the Inquiry in June 2005, the Select Committee has examined the actions which individuals can take in their everyday lives to combat climate change.

The Select Committee has expressed disappointment at the Government's response to the Inquiry and has stated that it will call the Secretary of State for the Environment, Hilary Benn, to question him on the Government position. The Committee will reiterate their view that there is a worrying lack of both engagement with the public over climate change and policies to encourage a change in behaviour to help tackle CO2 emissions.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Proposals for a Scottish Climate Change Bill

The Scottish Government today launched a consultation on proposals for a Scottish Climate Change Bill, including setting a target to reduce emissions by 2050. Feedback is requested by 31 March 2008.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Ministerial Launch of Science Budget Allocations to 2011

The science budget is to rise to £4 billion by the end of the Government's current spending period in 2011. The Rt Hon John Denham, Secretary of State for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), today announced that cross-cutting programmes bringing together the UK's Research Councils to focus on key areas of national importance, including climate change and energy security, would attract £1.3 billion of this extra funding.

Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) is one such interdisciplinary partnership, bringing together researchers and policy makers to tackle environmental change and the societal challenges it poses. LWEC benefits from £363 million of Government funding over the CSR period, outlined in the science budget allocations.

DEFRA Launches 'Ecosystem Approach'

Today, Joan Ruddock, Minister for Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste, launched a new DEFRA action plan, 'Securing a healthy natural environment', which aims to embed an 'ecosystems approach' into the Department's policy making and, ultimately, more widely, across the whole of government. This integrated, holistic approach to policy making and delivery on the natural environment is in line with calls from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and Convention on Biological Diversity that administrations adopt such measures to ensure sustainable development within environmental limits.

The report is accompanied by the launch of 'An introductory guide to valuing ecosystem services', aimed at policy-makers and economists and including a checklist of ecosystem services, with suggested ways of assessing their value.

Within the action plan, DEFRA has outlined 37 actions to be carried out within the next two years and against which progress will be evaluated in a report planned for 2009.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Bali - Climate Change Declaration by Scientists

Over 200 scientists from around the world have signed a declaration to urge politicians meeting at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali to commit to cutting emissions by more than half, amid fears that politicians will take less strong action than needed to halt global warming. The Bali Climate Declaration by Scientists stresses that emissions should be cut to 50% of 1990 levels by 2050 and that emissions should peak and then decline within the next 15 years in order to keep warming due to climate change below 2 degrees celcius.

The UN Climate Change Conference 2007 is being held in Bali between 3rd - 14th December bringing together representatives from over 180 countries. It is hoped that the conference can result in a "road map" towards reaching agreements on targets, to be signed in 2009 and implemented as a successor to the Kyoto Protocol in 2013.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Europe - Call for Evidence on Biodiversity Loss

The European Commission is supporting Germany with the preparatory work for a Review on the Economics of Biodiversity Loss, the results of which will bepresented at the Ninth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn in May 2008.

The Review aims to improve understanding of the the economic costs which may result from present and future trends of biodiversity loss and related declines in ecosystem services, along with the economic challenges associated with halting these trends. The Review will be conducted by an independent economist, yet to be appointed. 

Evidence must be submitted to the Commission by 31 December 2007.

BiodivERsA - £14 Million for Biodiversity Research

BiodivERsA, a new network of 19 public research funding bodies, across 14 European countries, has launched a joint call for international research projects on biodiversity, linking scientific advancement to policy and practice. Almost £14 million is available under the scheme, with DEFRA and NERC as the UK partners.

The call is open to research on all ecosystems and organisms addressing at least one of three thematic areas:
- Global change and biodiversity dynamics
- Ecosystem functioning
- Ecosystem services
Both science and policy aspects must be addressed within the proposal.

Applications are invited from those employed by an eligible organisation in one of the countries participating in BiodivERsA, whose work involves at least three countries also part of the network. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Call for Evidence

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) will be established as a new independent, statutory, advisory Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) following Royal Assent of the UK Climate Change Bill, expected in 2008. The Committee is required to formulate high-quality advice on three five-year 'carbon budgets', setting caps on UK emissions for 2008 - 2022, by 1 September 2008. To enable this deadline to be met effectively, a 'shadow' secretariat has been established. The shadow secretariat of the Committee has published a call for evidence, inviting organisations and individuals to submit information on specific questions related to the planned tasks of the CCC. Submissions are required by 18 January 2008.

Environmental Audit Committee Launches New Inquiry

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has today launched a new inquiry into climate change and local, regional and devolved government. With a vital role to play in reducing emissions , all levels of government should work to mitigate the effects of, and generate strategies to adapt to, climate change. Recent evidence to the Committee suggests a lack of cohesion between the various levels of government in the UK with respect to engagement in this area. Written evidence to the Committee from organisations and members of the public is invited by 3 January 2008.

UN Launch Annual Human Development Report

The UN launched its annual Human Development Report in Brazil on 27 November. The report, 'Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World,' is critical of all developed countries for their performance so far in cutting emissions. The report states that radical new policies are needed if Britain is to meet its target to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 26-32% by 2020, including higher vehicle excise duties for high-polluting cars and carbon taxes. The UK should also phase out highly polluting power stations and increase its use of renewable energy sources, particularly wind and tidal.

"In a divided but ecologically interdependent world, [the report] challenges all people to reflect upon how we manage the environment of the one thing that we share in common: planet Earth"

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

China and the EU could lead the low carbon economy

"Changing Climates: Interdependencies on Energy and Climate Security for China and Europe" , a report from Chatham House published today, suggests that by working together, the EU and China could lead the low carbon economy. China and the EU together account for 30% of both global energy consumption and global emissions, with both facing similar challenges to energy and climate security.

The report offers a number of options to assist policy makers in mapping the future of a low carbon economy, including:

  • the formation of a joint consultative committee to define aggressive standards for energy efficiency and low carbon goods to drive progress in both markets
  • pioneering sectoral approaches to climate change
  • establishing a high level joint commission on renewables to address bottlenecks and advance progress towards renewables targets
  • Increasing energy efficiency and low carbon technology co-operation, with suggestions around combining EU and Chinese public R&D budgets in strategic areas and the creation of an EU-China climate technologies prize fund.

IMoSEB Consultation

The International Steering Committee of the consultative process towards an International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity (IMoSEB) met for the final time in Montpellier, France on 15- 17 November to discuss establishing an intergovernmental panel to address biodiversity loss - intended to be similar to the IPCC. The Statement from the Committee recommends:

"Further and urgent consideration of the establishment of a means and enhancement of existing institutions to provide an objective source of information about biodiversity change and its impact on ecosystem services and human well-being, employing high scientific and technical standards and reflecting a range of views, expertise and wide geographic coverage. "

The Committee has invited the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, to convene an intergovernmental meeting to consider establishing a science-policy interface to promote regular global and sub-global assessments of the state and trends in biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Urging businesses to tackle climate change

A report by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) published on 26 November, pledges that industry will do "what it takes" to fight climate change. The authors, chief executives of big business, including Tesco, British Airways, Shell and Ford which between them emit 370m tonnes of carbon per year, say UK industry must take climate change seriously and fundamentally change its approach to reflect green concerns.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Blog Survey

Please take the time to complete the BES Blog Survey to help us improve the Blog for all users. There will be a prize draw once we've received 100 responses, with the chance to win fantastic BES merchandise.

We value your input on how we can develop the Blog and assess how useful it is to improve the relationship between science and policy. There are only ten questions: the Survey will take only a couple of minutes to complete.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Scotland Science Advisory Council

The Scottish Government wants new members for its Science Advisory Council. The Committee provides independent advice to Scottish Government Ministers on strategic scientific issues, including science strategy, science policy and science priorities. The deadline for applications is 30 November 2007.

IPCC Synthesis Report

The IPCC has published its Synthesis Report which completes its 4th Assessment Report. The IPCC conclude that it is necessary in both the short and long term that adaptation and mitigation complement each other to combat the risks of climate change. The report states that:

  • An increase of temperature between 1.5C to 2.5C will put 20-30% of species at an increased risk of extinction
  • An increased risk of extreme weather events would cause droughts, flash floods and storms, especially affecting low lying land and small islands
  • Oceans have become more acidic due to an increased uptake of anthropogenic carbon, thus having a negative impact on marine-shell forming organisms and their dependant species
  • The risk of sea level rise from the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets may be larger than once thought.

PM Speech on Climate Change

On Monday, the Prime Minister gave a speech on climate change and energy. He announced the Government's position on a post-2012 agreement to meet the challenges posed by climate change. He committed to increase the amount of electricity produced from offshore wind farms and to continue discussions regarding other renewable energy sources such as the Severn Barrage. He is committed to keeping in line with the EU agreement of ensuring that global temperatures do not increase above 2C.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Scottish Budget Spending Review

The Scottish Government released their spending plans for the next three years. £566.2 million will be spent over the next three years on delivering the Scottish Rural Development Programme which focuses on improving rural business production, climate change, water quality and landscape and biodiversity. £44.5 million will be invested into protecting Scotland's marine environment and establishing a Scottish Marine Management Partnership. £70million per annum will be spent on research to support decisions made by policymakers and practitioners and a further £2million a year will be invested in climate change research.

Environmental Science Strategy

The Natural Environment Research Council launched Next Generation Science for Planet Earth, their new science strategy. NERC’s strategic goal is to deliver world-leading environmental research at the frontiers of knowledge:

  • enabling society to respond urgently to global climate change and the increasing
    pressures on natural resources
  • contributing to UK leadership in predicting the regional and local impacts of environmental change from days to decades
  • creating and supporting vibrant, integrated research communities.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Adapting to Climate Change Study

The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution wants your views to help set the scope of its next study on Adapting the UK to Climate Change. The issues the RCEP is considering include biodiversity, disease, invasive species and land use. The RCEP would like input before 25 January 2008. The BES will be responding.

Science and Society

Ian Pearson MP, Minister for Science, has called for a new vision for science and society. His suggestion is:

A Society that is excited about science, values its importance to our economic and social well-being, feels confident in its use, and supports a representative, well-qualified scientific workforce.

The DIUS (old DTI page on BERR website) would like views and ideas about developing its new vision before 24 December 2007. The DIUS aims to publish a refreshed vision and strategy for action, which can be published for consultation during National Science & Engineering Week in March 2008.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Control of Invasive Non-Native Species

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is consulting on proposed revisions to Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act and ban on the sale of certain non-native species. Defra has proposals to both add and remove species from Schedule 9, which aims to control the release of invasive non-native species into the wild. The consultation also proposes that a number of non-native species should not be allowed to be sold in the UK, because of the economic and environmental damage they cause. Defra would like to have comments on the list of species recommended for inclusion/exclusion on the relevant lists. The consultation closes on 31 January 2008.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Science & Technology Committee's Report

The House of Common's Select Committee on Science and Technology has been replaced by the Innovation, Universities and Skills Committee. The Science and Technology Committee has published its Last Report. The Committee recommended that the House of Commons should consider creating a Science and Technology Committee at the end of the 2007-2008 session. It recommended that the new Innovation, Universities and Skills Committee should:

  • change its title to include science, as should the DIUS;
  • look at cross-departmental science policy issues;
  • consider how it will scrutinize the work of Research Councils;
  • continue the Science Question Time, which improved ministerial scrutiny;
  • consider how 'evidence' is used by select committees.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

New Parliamentary Select Committees

Changes to Parliamentary Select Committees have been put in place following changes to Government Departments. These changes will affect how science and education policy are scrutinised by Parliament.
  • The new Innovation, Universities and Skills Committee will be responsible for examining the work of DIUS which includes further education, higher education and skills and the Government Office of Science. The members of the Committee are Adam Afriyie, Nadine Dorries, Dr Ian Gibson, Dr Evan Harris, Dr Brian Iddon, Graham Stringer, Dr Desmond Turner, Gordon Marsden, Bob Spink, Ian Stewart, Ian Cawsey, Phil Willis, Rob Wilson and Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods.
  • The Children, Schools and Families Committee replaces the former Education and Skills Committee. The new committee will analyse the administration, expenditure and policy of the DCFS, including educational curriculum. The members of the committee are Barry Sheerman, Douglas Carswell, David Chaytor, Fiona Mactaggart, Andrew Pelling, Graham Stuart, Dawn Butler, Annette Brooke, John Heppell, Maria Miller, Joan Ryan, Andy Slaughter, Lynda Waltho and Stephen Williams.

Queen's Speech

The Queen's Speech included the Climate Change Bill and the draft Marine Bill (not mentioned in the speech).

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

UK Approach to Conserving Biodiversity

The UK Biodiversity Partnership has published its approach to biodiversity conservation. The UK will take an Ecosystem Approach and put sustained effort into the following six priorities:

  • protecting the best sites for wildlife;
  • targeting action on priority species and habitats;
  • embedding proper consideration of biodiversity and ecosystem services in all relevant sectors of policy and decision-making;
  • engaging people, and encouraging behaviour change;
  • developing and interpreting the evidence base;
  • ensuring that the UK plays a proactive role in influencing the development of Multilateral Environmental Agreements, and contributes fully to their domestic delivery

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Environmental Monitoring

The Environmental Research Funders' Forum has published a Strategic Analysis of UK Environmental Monitoring Activity. It found that the UK monitoring community is large and fragmented. Monitoring is undertaken for a variety of reasons with the most common being long-term research and informing policy development. About a third of the activities are meeting or contributing to statutory requirements. There appears to be a lack of baseline data and data on long-term trends in specific topic areas including climate change impacts. The cost of monitoring covered by the review has been very conservatively estimated at upwards of £88 million and could be up to £500m. The lack of secure funding was identified as the major risk to long-term datasets. Other risks include organisational and staffing changes and the reliance on the volunteer continuity who collect approximately one third of the terrestrial datasets. The principle recommendation of the review is that a clear vision, strategy and framework for long-term environmental monitoring are required.

Ecological Engagement Award

The BES Ecological Engagement Award is an annual award to recognise an exceptional contribution to facilitating the use and understanding of ecology. The Award is an honorarium of £1,000 plus a certificate. The award is given annually at the BES Annual Meeting. This year's winner was Dr Tim Sparks for his contribution to the UK Phenology Network. Who should get the award in 2008? Please send your nominations by the 1st December 2007.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Taking forward the Climate Change Bill

Defra has published a Command Paper entitled ‘Taking Forward the UK Climate Change Bill.’ The Paper is a response to the Consultation and Parliamentary inquiries into its Draft Climate Change Bill. The Paper makes a number of changes to the Climate Change Bill, including:

  • Asking the Committee on Climate Change to report on whether the Government’s target to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 60 percent by 2050 should be strengthened further;
  • Asking the Committee to look at the implications of including other greenhouse gases;
  • Strengthening the role and responsibilities of the Committee on Climate Change, including by requiring the Government to seek the Committee’s advice before amending the 2020 or 2050 targets in the Bill;
  • Strengthening the Committee’s independence from Government, by confirming that it will appoint its own chief executive and staff, and increasing its analytical resources;
  • Increased transparency, by requiring the Committee to publish its analysis and advice to Government on setting five-yearly carbon budgets, which are designed to provide clarity on the UK’s route towards its reduction targets;
  • Strengthening Parliament’s ability to hold Government to account, by requiring the Government to explain its reasons to Parliament if it does not accept the Committee’s advice on the level of the carbon budget, or if it does not meet a budget or target;
  • Strengthening the country’s preparedness for climate change by requiring the Government regularly to assess the risks of climate change to the UK, and to report to Parliament on its proposals and policies for sustainable adaptation to climate change.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Response to the Marine Bill White Paper

Defra published the summary of responses to A Sea Change – a Marine Bill White Paper. Defra received a total of 8519 responses, 8085 "campaign" responses and 434 "non-campaign" responses. 82% of the responses were supportive of the Marine Bill. A number of the responses emphasised the importance of the Bill being included in the Queen's speech and that their support was dependant on the implementation of all the proposals.

Natural England Science Strategy

Natural England has published its draft science strategy ''integrated science to support integrated solutions" and action plan for consultation. To deliver an efficient and effective service the Science and Evidence Team will encourage integration in a number of ways:

  • the science programme must deliver a service to all parts of the business supply chain, from strategy to delivery, and will be driven by this imperative;
  • the science function will be visible and seen as part of the work of the whole organisation;
  • the science team will assess the adequacy of existing information before proposing new research;
  • science projects will always consider the need for interdisciplinary science;
  • the science function will explicitly integrate with that of our key partners;
  • the science team will be engaged with the wider science community.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Parliamentary evidence on badgers and bTB

Today at 3.00 pm the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee is taking evidence on "Badgers and cattle TB," which can be watched live on the internet. The Committee will first take evidence from former members of the Independent Science Group who oversaw the Randomised Badger Culling Trial. The BES has published research from members of the group in its journals. The ISG final report recommended against a badger cull to control the incidence of bovine TB (bTB). The Committee will then take evidence from the Government's Chief Science Adviser, Sir David King. Sir David has questioned the findings of the ISG and recommend that a badger cull would help to control the incidence of bTB in cattle.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Chief Science Adviser: Badger Culling

Sir David King, the Government Chief Science Adviser, has published a report on bovine TB in Cattle and Badgers. His conclusion that badger culling is an effective strategy for controlling bTB differed from the Independent Science Groups. Sir David's assessment is that:

  • Badgers are a clear source of infection for cattle. Reducing the density of badgers in those areas of England where there is a significant level of TB in cattle reduces the incidence of TB in cattle in the same area;
  • Removal of badgers is the best option available at the moment to reduce the reservoir of infection in wildlife. But in the longer term, alternative or additional means of controlling TB in badgers, such as vaccination, may become available. Research into these should continue;
  • Removal of badgers should only take place in those areas of the country where there is a high and persistent incidence of TB in cattle. The minimum overall area within which badger removal should take place is 100 km2, although increasing the area would increase the overall benefit. Badger removal programmes should be sustained (unless replaced or supplemented by alternative means of control);
  • There is some evidence of an adverse effect on the incidence of cattle TB in the area 0.5 - 1.0 km outside the removal area. This may or may not be totally related to the removal programme, and there should be monitoring outside the removal area to detect any such effect. Measures should be taken to limit the risk of such an effect;
  • After four years, the badger removal programme should be reviewed.

Monday, 22 October 2007

The Science behind the Thrown

The BBC Radio 4 programme The Science behind the Thrown examines the role of scientific advisers in government. The programme looks at the history of science policy in the UK and how it has changed since post-war period.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

2010 Biodiversity Indicators

The European Environment Agency (EEA) has produced a report aimed at policymakers to help combat the the loss of biodiversity in Europe and reach the 2010 biodiversity loss target. The EEA proposes 26 biodiversity indicators, known as Streamlining European 2010 Biodiversity Indicators (SEBI 2010) and individual indicator methodology. The EEA has been collaborating with other institutions and organisations since 2005 to establish SEBI 2010.

Marine Research Report

The House of Commons' Science and Technology Committee have released their report Investigating the Oceans, which addresses marine science in the United Kingdom. The Committee recommend the following:

  • Urge Defra to bring forward to draft Marine Bill without delay.
  • A new marine science agency should be established to coordinate marine science and research in the UK, to promote the education on marine science in schools, universities and the UK public to overcome the skill shortage in marine science.
  • Both NERC and the government need to commit to ensuring that the research vessel planned for 2011 is delivered on time and that NERC should develop a case for a new coastal vessel.
  • It is essential that the government establish Marine Protected Area (MPA) pilot sites ahead of the Bill, to assemble the necessary evidence required to develop the science needed to underpin MPA's and that MPA policy is directly linked to the draft Climate Change and Energy Bills.

Defra Science Advisory Council Meeting

Defra's Science Advisory Council (SAC) meeting yesterday covered Defra's science strategy development, social science research, Defra's animal disease strategy and climate change. The SAC announced that a sub-group would work along side Professor Robert Watson, the Chief Scientific Advisor, advising on the process of Defra's assessment on its scientific capability and capacity needs. The SAC stressed that current capacity and capability should be addressed to assess and analyse social science research as it is imperative that it is embedded into all policy decision making. Current research on ice cover in the Arctic during September 2007 was presented followed by council members welcoming Defra to fund pioneering studies on geo-engineering technologies. Concerns were made by the public regarding budget spending, whether aviation is to be included in the Climate Change Bill and adaptation to climate change.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Comprehensive Spending Review

In the 2007 Pre-Budget Report and Comprehensive Spending Review:

  • Defra will receive an average annual increase of 1.4%, increasing the total budget from £3,508 million in 2007 to £3,960 million by 2010-11. This increase will provide the delivery of an increase to £800 million spent on flood and coastal risk management, a step-change in investment for sustainable waste management and a £570 million contribution to the Environmental Transformation Fund.
  • NERC will receive an increase of 5.4% each year totalling £1.2 billion over the next three years which will assist in the Next Generation Science for Planet Earth 2007 - 2012 Strategy which will be launched in November this year. The Department for Innovation, University and Skills' budget of 18.7 billion in 2007-2008 will rise to £20.8 billion in 2010-2011, an average annual increase of 2.2%. This increase supports the Government's aim for Britain to be a world class place for science, research and innovation.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Sainsbury Review

Lord Sainsbury has published his review of the Government's science and innovation policies. The report entitled a Race to the Top calls for:

  • A new leadership role for the Technology Strategy Board Working with the RDA's the Research Councils and government departments to co-ordinate public sector support for technological innovation, leverage public sector resources and simplify access to funds for business.
  • Building on our success in knowledge transfer by giving more support through the Higher Education Innovation Fund to business-facing universities, setting targets for knowledge transfer from Research Councils, doubling the number of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and extending these further to FE Colleges.
  • A major campaign to enhance the teaching of science and technology including raising the number of qualified STEM teachers, increasing the number of young people studying triple science, improving careers advice, establishing a National Science Competition, and rationalising the many schemes to inspire our young people to take up careers in science and engineering.
  • A key role for Government Departments based on an improved procurement capability, a reformed Small Business Research Initiative managed in partnership with the TSB, and consideration for the incorporation of innovation into the duties of the economic regulators.
  • Increasing the focus of RDAs on science and innovation by encouraging them to put additional resources into TSB programmes, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, high-technology clusters around world-class research universities, and proof-of-concept schemes consistent with a nationally agreed specification.

The Government has announced that it will invest £1 billion over the next three years to boost business innovation and technology development and will create a new science and innovation strategy, to help position Britain as a key knowledge economy at the forefront of 21st century innovation.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Review of Environmental Research Funding

The Environmental Researchers Funder’s Forum (ERFF) has produced a report analysing the placement of environmental research funding. The report aims to assist the UK’s primary funders of environmental research to maximise the coherence and effectiveness of research funding by identifying gaps and overlaps in the distribution of funding. Data was collated from environmental research projects funded in 2004 – 2005 by the 12 members of the ERFF including Defra, NERC, BBSRC and SEPA.

The period of 2004-2005, £263.56 million was spent on environmental research and £22.99 million was spent on environmental research training totalling a spend of £286.55 million. NERC and Defra accounted for 75% of the total spend during 2004-2005 making them the largest public funders of environmental research. Out of the 12 priority research areas that were analysed, £104 million was spent on natural resources; £95 million was spent on farming, fisheries, food, forestry and land use and £68 million was spent on climate change. The lowest spend was £6million on human health, flooding and flood defences. The allocation of funding for environmental research training coincides with the distribution of funding for research showing that natural resources gains the highest allocation of funding for both research and training.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Severn Barrage Development

Today the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) released a report on the development of the Severn Barrage. If fully exploited, SDC have suggested that the barrage will supply 10% of the UK’s electricity which will combat both current issues of climate change and energy security. The barrage would generate large quantities of low carbon electricity thus assisting in reaching the 2050 climate change reduction targets and the renewable energy targets. Despite the potential advantages of the barrage, the SDC says there are serious environmental costs that need to be addressed.

The Severn Estuary is home to unique ecosystems that are protected under national and international legislation. The estuary is an internationally important site for 65,000 migratory birds, five of which are of international importance and ten are of national importance. The estuary is designated a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the EU Birds Directive and is a candidate Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) under the EU Habitats Directive. Surrounding areas of the Severn Estuary are also protected under international and national statutory designations such as RAMAR, SSSI and both Local and National nature reserves. These ecosystem habitats would be directly affected by the development of the barrage. Under the EU Directives, the development must go through a series of tests which includes providing habitat compensation costing in the region of 7.5million for a new 115ha habitat.

NERC Science Champions

The Natural Environment Research Council has named its 'champions' that will encourage partnerships across the research and stakeholder communities:

  • Climate Change: Rowan Sutton
  • Biodiversity: Lloyd Peck
  • Earth System Science: Tim Jickells
  • Natural Hazards: John Rees
  • Sustainable Use of Natural Resources: Louise Heathwaite
  • Environment, Pollution and Human Health: Roy Harrison
  • Technologies: Alastair Lewis

Monday, 24 September 2007

Forest Now Decleration

Forests Now is a campaign to stop deforestation, because tropical forest ecosystems act as carbon sinks and provide ecosystems services that every human being depends on. Forests in the developing world support the livelihood of 1.4 billion people, but the demand for timber and biofuels are causing these regions to contribute 18-25% of global carbon emissions to the atmosphere.

Forests Now are asking Governments to include tropical forests in carbon markets. They have suggested that:

  • Carbon market rules should encourage reforestation, afforestation and sustainable forest management.
  • That tropical forest and land use carbon credits should be included in the EU Trading Scheme.
  • Incentives that encourage the sustainable use of degraded land and ecosystems ought to be in place.
  • Assistance should be available for developing nations so they can participate in carbon markets.
  • All national and international carbon markets include carbon credits for reduced emissions from deforestation and the protection of standing forests.

Scottish Inquiry into Flooding

The Scottish Parliament's Rural Affairs and Environment Committee launched an inquiry into the flooding and flood management of Scotland. The Committee wants evidence from those involved in flood management or people who can provide insights into how climate change may affect the future flooding of Scotland. The Committee wants to investigate current flood management in Scotland and how it can be improved in relation to previous flooding experience and future climate change.

Committee on Climate Change

Defra is seeking specialists to form its Climate Change Committee which is due to initiate in spring 2008. Closing date for the posts is 8th October 2007. The Committee will act in a "shadow" capacity until the Climate Change Bill becomes law.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Conservative Environment Proposals

The Conservative Party's Quality of Life Policy Group has published its report 'Blueprint for a Green Economy.' The report covers a range of environmental issues (climate change, marine, farming). Recommendations in the report will be considered by the Shadow Cabinet in drawing up new policies.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Welsh Assembly Inquiry into TB in Wales

The Welsh Assembly’s Rural Development Sub-Committee is conducting an inquiry into TB in Wales. The Sub-Committee will be focussing particularly on the implementation of the recommendations of the Environment, Planning and Countryside (EPC) Committee’s inquiry in 2004 and the Independent Science Group’s (ISG) report into Bovine TB published in June 2007.

The deadline for responses is 21 September 2007.

Three sites proposed for Special Areas of Conservation status

Three estuaries - the Dee, Humber and Severn - have been earmarked by Defra as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to protect vulnerable wildlife and habitats. Defra has asked to the European Commission to consider SAC status for the three candidate sites, to add to the UK’s 611 SACs covering just over two and a half million hectares, established under the EU Habitats Directive.

The Sustainable Development Commission is due to report in the autumn on the potential for utilising tidal power to generate electricity both in the Severn and elsewhere. SAC designation would not rule out tidal power development, including in the Severn Estuary, in appropriate circumstances.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Rising CO2 will Increase River Levels

Scientists from the Met Office Hadley Centre, theUniversity of Exeter and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology have found that rising carbon dioxide levels will increase river levels in the future. The study published in the journal Nature found that increasing carbon dioxide will cause plants to extract less water from the soil, leaving more water to drain into rivers which will add to the riverflow increases already expected due to climate change. The study argues that the effect of plant responses to carbon dioxide could be as important as those of increased rainfall due to man-made climate change.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

New Biodiversity Action Plan list approved

The Governments of all four UK administrations have now adopted the recommendations of experts and published the UK list of priority species and habitats. This list, a result of the most comprehensive analysis ever undertaken in the UK, contains 1149 species and 65 habitats that have been listed as priorities for conservation action under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP).

The new Biodiversity Action plan list will supersede that adopted 10 years ago, which contained 577 species and 49 habitats across the UK.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Biodiversity – Climate Interactions

In June 2007 the Royal Society hosted a meeting in collaboration with Defra, DFID, the JNCC, The Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, the Met Office Hadley Centre, and the Natural Environment Research Council, to investigate the inter-linkages between biodiversity, climate change, and human livelihoods and the potential role for biodiversity management in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Presentations from the meeting and a summary of the discussion are available to download from the website. The findings of the meeting will be presented at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) subsidiary body of science, technical and technological advice (SBSTTA) meeting.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Poverty and Ecosystems - Kenya Case Study

The International Institute for Sustainable Development has published a report that shows one way in which national-level sustainable development assessment and reporting can be done by assessing the state of ecosystems and human poverty in Kenya, showing how they are linked and analyzing the potential effectiveness of one of the government’s poverty reduction strategy.
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) showed levels of ecosystem degradation worldwide, and how these are linked to human well-being. The IISD has worked to develop an integrated poverty-ecosystems framework with the United Nations Environment Programme to help provide a road map for Government’s.

Monday, 20 August 2007

EC Report on the Seveso II Directive

The European Commission today published a report on member states' progress in implementing the 'Seveso II' Directive on the control of major-accident hazards involving dangerous substances. The report summarises the information provided by EU-25 Member States for the 2003-2005 period.

The Seveso II Directive aims to prevent major accidents involving dangerous substances. It intended to limit the consequence of any accidents to people and the environment, and to ensure high levels of protection throughout the community. In the UK, Seveso II is implemented through the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 1999 (COMAH). The directive was amended in 2003 to broaden its scope. The regulations apply to sites that have the potential to cause major accidents that may harm people and seriously damage the environment.

Defra Consultation on Geological Storage of Radioactive Waste

Defra have launched the following consultation: Managing radioactive waste safely: a framework for implementing geological disposal.

The Government’s response to the independent Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) on 25 October 2006 committed to consult on how implementation of geological storage of higher activity radioactive waste can be taken forward. The Government seeks views on the technical aspects of developing a storage facility and how to engage most effectively with those communities that might have a potential interest in hosting the facility.

The deadline for responses is Friday, 2 November 2007.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Public attitudes and behaviour towards the environment

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs has released the 2007 Survey of Public Attitudes and Behaviours towards the environment. Questions on biodiversity were included in a short follow up survey.

Between 30 and 40 per cent of people said that they had given a great deal or a fair amount of thought to loss of biodiversity before. 71 per cent of those who own a garden strongly agreed or tended to agree that “they actively encourage wildlife in their garden”.

Biodiversity was explained to respondents as "the variety of living things and the natural environments that support them" and loss of biodiversity as "loss of species of living things through development, pollution, or natural processes".

Friday, 10 August 2007

New Biodiversity Guidance for Local Authorities

Defra have published new guidance for local authorities to help them to fulfill their duty to conserve, restore and enhance species populations and natural habitats. It provides advice on different activities and functions of public sector organisations and includes a number of case studies which illustrate what can be done to conserve biodiversity.

Local authorities have a Duty to have regard to the conservation of biodiversity, which was introduced by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act and came into force on 1 October 2006, this aims to raise the profile and visibility of biodiversity and make it an increasingly important part of policy and decision making.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Committee report on Draft Climate Change Bill

The Joint Committee on the Draft Climate Change Bill have published their report on the Draft Bill today. Key findings include the following:

  • The 2050 target for carbon reductions does not reflect the latest science on climate change and is undermined by the exclusion of aviation and shipping
  • The upper limit for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 should be removed
  • Mechanisms to enforce the bill need to be strengthened and the legal responsibility should fall on the Prime Minister instead of the Secretary of State for Environment
  • Close monitoring and reporting of other GHGs
  • The Bill needs to be strengthened on adaptation to include a duty on the secretary of state to report on the risks and proposals to address those risks
  • The Government needs to consider how best improve public understanding and action on climate change and role of local government in addressing climate change

Monday, 30 July 2007

EAC Report on the draft Climate Change Bill

The Environmental Audit Committee has today published a report: 'Beyond Stern: From the Climate Change Programme Review to the Draft Climate Change Bill'. The report argues the following:
- carbon emissions reductions targets must be increased to reflect the latest science
- the Committee on Climate Change should be given a stronger role
- international aviation and shipping emissions must be included within the UKs targets
- the Government should focus more on total amount of carbon emissions the UK can "safely" emit over the next forty years, rather than on simply hitting annual emissions targets in individual target years

The committee recommends that the requirment to report on adaptation to climate change is accompanied by a Government programme of action on adaptation in the UK and that this should include an international development strategy which works to address the impact of climate change on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Consultation on EU Soil Framework Directive

A Defra consultation has been launched on the proposed EU Soil Framework Directive and how these proposals will meet the needs of soil protection in the UK and how they could be improved to ensure that the policy measures are proportionate to the risks to soil protection.

Our soils deliver a range of ecosystem services which are vital for human activities such as support for ecosystems and habitats, storage of carbon, stabilisation of contaminants, and filtration of water. Soil is currently being degraded by urban development, inappropriate gricultural and forestry practices, industrial activities, and tourism. The proposed Soil Framework Directive seeks to ensure the protection and sustainable use of soil based on preventing further soil degradation and preserving its functions, and restoring degraded soils.

The consultation closes 19 October 2007.

Weekly Parliamentary News Update

Parliamentary questions were asked on the following: research into the impact of livestock husbandry on climate change; the tonnage of waste going to landfill in greater London; habitat compensation schemes, secured under the EU Habitats Directive and the environmental impact of the increase in residential air conditioning, the provisions made in the National Curriculum, for education on climate change, and recycling timber.

In an opposition debate on global poverty, several members discussed climate change in relation to international development objectives of sustainable development and poverty alleviation.

Select Committees
The Environmental Audit Select Committee has launched two new inquiries into environmental labelling and the sustainability of biofuels and published a report on the voluntary carbon offset market.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has launched an inquiry into flooding

The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology has published POSTnotes on managing urban flooding, and environmental protection and new industries in the deep sea such as carbon storage.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

EAC report on Carbon Offset Market

The Environmental Audit Committee has published a report on the voluntary carbon offset market. The report says that individuals, organisations and companies should be assisted and encouraged to offset because it can play a part in mitigating CO2 emissions levels over the short term, however it recognises that the market needs to be more robust. The Committee said that offseting must be made easier for carbon intensive goods and services. It also said that Government and business must agree the definition of "carbon neutral" when applied to business and develop appropriate audit standards, and that using robust offset schemes to preserve existing forests should be encouraged.

Monday, 23 July 2007

New Government Office for Science

A Government Office for Science (GO-Science), headed by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA) will be created within the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), reporting to the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The Government Office for Science will take over the functions and resources of the Trans-departmental Science and Technology Group of the Office of Science and Innovation, which was within the former Department of Trade and Industry. The office will be responsible or providing scientific advice personally to the Prime Minister and members of Cabinet, ensuring and improving the quality and use of scientific evidence and advice in Government; leading the science and engineering profession within the Civil Service.

The other elements of the former Office of Science and Innovation (OSI) will become part of the DIUS Science and Innovation Group, which will be headed up by Sir Keith O'Nions as Director-General. Ian Pearson is Minister for Science and Innovation. and John Denham is Secretary of State for DIUS.

Parliamentary News

House of Commons
Hilary Benn MP confirmed that the Government intends to introduce a Marine Bill in this parliament and that a draft Bill will probably be published in early 2008

Phil Woolas MP said that the Government are currently looking at proposals for a Severn barrage and are considering the potential impact of this on the natural environment alongside its benefits as a source of renewable energy.

Joan Ruddock MP commented on the need to produce biofuels in a sustainable way, also and the renewable transport fuel obligation will require companies to report publicly on the life-cycle carbon savings and wider sustainability impacts of their biofuels, taking into account biodiversity and previous land use.

Jonathan Shaw MP said that Defra has not funded any research specifically to look at the relative efficiency, in terms of land use, of producing organic and non-organic crops. However, he mentioned two defra funded projects which involve some element of comparison between organic and conventional farming, one of them looked at factors influencing biodiversity.

On biomass crops Jonathan Shaw MP said that the Biomass strategy provides the framework fro expansion in the sustainable use of biomass, and that there is potential to use 350’000 hectares on land by 2020 to grow biomass crops in a sustainable way. Crops planted under Defra’s Energy Crops Scheme are already subject to an environmental assessment before planting to include landscape, archaeology and wildlife considerations.

House of Lords
There was a House of Lords debate on bees and their importance as pollinators and the threat to them posed by pests and pathogens. Lord Rooker said that the Department is currently preparing a draft strategy for bee health and will be consulting with stakeholders on the future direction of the programme. Issues were raised relating to funding into research and public education and encouraging bee-keeping.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

State of the Countryside Report 2007

The Commission for Rural Communities has published a report showing land use and demographic changes in the countryside. The report shows that due to the changing climate there are now nearly 400 vineyards in England and Wales and a near doubling of energy crops in the last year. In 2007, more than 4m hectares of farmland was under an agri-environment scheme. Organically farmed land or land that is being converted to organic farm has increased from 2.7 in 2003 to 3.1% in 2007.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Debate on Adapting to Climate Change

Last week Andrew Pelling MP led a debate on adaptation to climate change. He argued that strategies for adapting to climate change have not been given sufficient attention so far, as the focus has been on mitigating climate change. Scientific evidence on the impacts of climate change on biological systems and the occurrence of more erratic weather patterns, migration pressures that will arise from climate change, rising sea levels are some of the impacts which will be unavoidable. He noted that the City of London was the first authority to come forward with an adaptation policy and the EU has recently launched a green paper on adapting to climate change in Europe.

Joan Ruddock MP, Parliamentary Under Secretaty of State at Defra reported that the Government are supporting stakeholders with information and tools for adaptation, but acknowledged the need for a more strategic direction. The UK climate impact programme—UKCIP which works on adaptation strategies with local and regional partners has been working on a new set of climate change scenarios which will be published next year. The draft Climate Change Bill places a reporting requirement on the Government which includes an assessment of the risks climate change and the Governments efforts towards adapting to climate change every 5 years. The Government is also currently developing a cross-Government framework on adaptation to climate change.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Future of Ireland's Forests

How can Ireland's forests promote its national heritage? Woodlands of Ireland is conducting a review of the Heritage Council's forestry policy. The review group is requesting input from experts about a wide range of issues relating to forestry, including links to biodiversity, protection of water and soil and research needs. Overall, they want to know what your vision for forestry in Ireland is. Comments are requested by 21 August.

Wildlife Health Strategy

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is holding a consultation on a Wildlife Health Strategy. One of the main drivers for the consultation is that policy responsibility for wildlife diseases is unclear. The strategy examines ways to improve communication, research, surveillance, risk assessment, prevention and control of wildlife diseases. The final consultation question asks, what are the top three wildlife health issues that should be in the implementation plan.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Parliamentary News

The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown MP, announced his draft programme for legislation for 2007/08. It included the Climate Change Bill and Energy Bill. It did not include a Marine Bill. People can send their comments on the draft programme to Leader of the House of Commons.

The UK Government responded to the Environmental Audit Committee's report on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee published their report on the European Liabilities Directive. The report recommended that the scope of the UK's implementation be extended to cover nationally important biodiversity.

There was a House of Commons debate on Scientific Advice, Risk and Policy Making, based on the Science and Technology Committee's report.

Monday, 9 July 2007

European Mammal Assessment

The European Mammal Assessment (EMA) is the first comprehensive assessment of the conservation status of mammals at a European level. It was commissioned by the European Commission and carried out by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). There are online fact sheets for each species, including IUCN Red List threat category, range map, ecology information, and other data. Key findings from the Assessment are:

  • 15% of Europe's mammal species are threatened, and a further 9% are close to qualifying for threatened status.
  • A higher proportion of marine mammals are threatened than terrestrial mammals (22% versus 14%).
  • 27% of European mammals have declining populations. A further 32% are stable, and 33% are of unknown population trend. Only 8% of species populations are increasing. A number of these increases are due to successful species-specific conservation action.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Code for Scientific Advisory Committee

The Office of Science and Innovation have launched a consultation on the updated Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees (SACs). The Code promotes good practice in the relationships between Scientific Advisory Committees and Government and was last revised in December 2001. The OSI would like to update the Code to:

  • include lay members and co-opt experts on to SACs
  • monitor the implementation of the Code and clarify what SACs need to follow the Code
  • reflect changes since it was first published in 2001 (e.g. Freedom of Information Act)
The Government has committed to update the Code by the end of 2007. Updating the Code was recommended by the Science and Technology Select Committee in its report on Scientific Advice.

The consultation closes on 16 September 2007. The BES is responding.

EU Adapting to Climate Change

The impacts of climatic changes will hit locally and regionally in different ways. Many adaptation actions will need to be decided at a local, regional and national level. As part of exploring options to improve Europe’s resilience to climate change effects and the European Union role in climate change adaptation the European Commission is undertaking a number of activities.

The European Climate Change Programme working group has published a number of reports the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, marine resources, water cycles and forestry and other areas.

A green paper has been published, Adapting to Climate Change in Europe - options for EU action, and is open for consultation until the end of November. The paper seeks views on what will be the most severe impacts on Europe's natural environment, what roles Government's, local authorities, businesses and other should play in adapting to climate change, and which impacts should be a priority for the EU.

New Defra Chief Science Adviser

Dr Robert Watson has been appointed as Defra's next Chief Science Adviser. He will start in September 2007. Bob Watson is currently Chief Scientist and Senior Advisor for Sustainable Development at the World Bank. He has been involved in a number of international scientific assessments related to Defra's work: the IPCC, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the international agricultural assessment. As Chief Science Adviser, he will advise ministers on science issues and build on existing measures to ensure that science and technology are used to inform policy. He will support the UK Government’s scientific work on minimising the effects of climate change and improving sustainability by promoting consistency across Defra and working together with other Government departments.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Efra Committee on the Climate Change Bill

The Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee has published its report on the Draft Climate Change Bill. The main recommendations were:

  • The Bill should avoid referring to 'carbon.' It should use 'carbon dioxide' or carbon dioxide equivalent.'
  • The Bill should incorporate targets referring to cumulative emissions.
  • The Committee on Climate Change should assess what the 2050 target should be and be empowered by the Bill to propose revising the target.
  • The Committee should not be a policy-making or delivery body. It should be an advisory body and should include expertise about the impact of climate change on biodiversity.
  • The Committee should be independent of Government and have sufficient resources to carry out its functions.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Convention on Biological Diversity - SBSTTA

The 12th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) to the CBD will take place in Paris at the UNESCO headquarters from the 2-6 July 2007. The meeting will review the application of the ecosystem approach, the implementation of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, discuss issues for evaluating progress or supporting implementation of the Convention, such as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and analyze scientific and technical issues of relevance to the implementation of the 2010 target, such as climate change and the sustainable use of biodiversity. The IISD will be producing daily reports from the meting.

Friday, 29 June 2007

DfID Research Strategy

The UK's Department for International Development is consulting on its research strategy. It follows the Department's 2006 White Paper. The consultation asks how DfID can:

  • build on their four research themes (agriculture, "killer diseases", governance and climate change)
  • improve the way it identifies demand for research from end-users
  • promote cross-cutting research that will benefit poor people
  • help developing countries to conduct and use research
  • make it more likely that research will be used

There is an on-line questionnaire to that will be open until 23 September. The BES is planning to respond to the consultation.

Parliamentary News

The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown MP, has selected the following Ministers to lead government departments relevant to the BES:

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

  • Secretary of State: Hilary Benn MP
  • Minister of State: Lord Rooker (farming, animal welfare)
  • Minister of State: Phil Woolas MP (climate change, energy, sustainable development)
  • Parliamentary Under Secretary of State: Joan Ruddock MP (climate change, biodiversity)
  • Parliamentary Under Secretary of State: Jonathan Shaw MP (marine, local environmental quality)

Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills*

  • Secretary of State: John Denham MP
  • Minister of State: Bill Rammell MP (Higher Education)
  • Minister of State: Ian Pearson MP (Science and Innovation)
  • Parliamentary Under Secretary of State: David Lammy MP (Skills)
  • Parliamentary Under Secretary of State: Lord Triesman (IP)

* New Department

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Scottish and Welsh Ministers

Scottish Executive
Rural Affairs and the Environment

  • Cabinet Secretary: Richard Lochhead MSP
  • Minister for Environment: Michael Russell MSP

Education & Lifelong Learning

  • Minister for Schools and Skills: Maureen Watt MSP
  • Cabinet Secretary: Fiona Hyslop MSP
Welsh Assembly Government

First Minister (including science): Rhodri Morgan AM
Sustainability and Rural Development: Jane Davidson AM
Education, Culture and the Welsh Language: Carwyn Jones AM

Friday, 22 June 2007

Parliamentary News Update

Tuesday 19 June
The Joint committee on the draft Climate Change Bill took oral evidence from the GLA, CLA, and National Consumer Council among other representatives.

Written questions were asked on the effect of agricultural nitrates on algal blooms, the protection of dolphins and porpoises, and biodiversity objectives.

There was a House of Lords debate on tackling climate change with carbon offsetting.

Wednesday 20 June
David Miliband gave a written statement on this month's agriculture and fisheries council in Luxembourg.

Baroness Byford asked a written question on the targets for the issue of Food and Environmental Protection Act licences.

Thursday 21 June
David Miliband answered oral questions on the effectiveness of climate change agreements made at recent G8 summit.

During a discussion of the Energy White Paper, Robert Key MP asked the Ian Pearson, Minister of State, Defra) about the Defra's assessment of the biodiversity impact of the proposed Severn barrage. The Minister stated that the Sustainable Development Commission is due to produce a report on the environmental impact of the Severn barrage, in September and highlighted the potential benefits of the project.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

England Forestry Strategy Launched

The UK Government has published a new Strategy for England’s Trees, Woods and Forests. The strategy identifies the contribution that trees, woods and forests make to environmental and social objectives and shows how their sustainable management can support adaptation to climate change and reduce carbon emissions. The strategy proposes to enhance the quality and area of forestry. This will also help to meet the England Biodiversity Strategy target to improve the condition of woodland Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), and the Biodiversity Action Plan target to create 2,200 hectares of wet woodland in England by 2010. The Forestry Commission will lead in developing a joint Delivery Plan with Natural England, and will be engaging with stakeholders over the next year.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Scientists Call for Marine Reserves

Professor Callum Roberts, University of York, has circulated a statement to bring together the European community of marine scientists together in affirming the need for marine reserves and express and concern over the lack of progress in implementing marine reserve networks in European waters. The statement says that Fully Protected Marine Reserves are essential for conservation, are necessary for the implementation of effective management of the sea, and have important benefits to scientific understanding of this environment. As of 7 June, 275 scientists had signed up to the statement. European scientists can sign the statement by e-mailing their name, affiliation, degree qualification and country.

Scottish Marine Bill

The Scottish Executive's Rural Affairs and Environment Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead, has announced that he intends to introduce a new Scottish Marine Bill that would enable:

  • A simpler regulatory system for the marine environment
  • More action on marine nature conservation
  • A strategic national approach
  • Greater local control over marine and coastal areas

The Cabinet Secretary is currently reviewing the reports by:

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Climate Change Responses in the High Arctic

A team of Danish scientists published a ten year report on the phenological responses to climate change in the high arctic: Rapid Advancement of Spring in the High Arctic ($). One of the clearest and most rapid signals of biological response to rising temperatures across has been shifts in species phenology, yet to date assessment has not been made of these changes in the high arctic. This new report documents extremely rapid climate-induced advancement of flowering, emergence and egg-laying in a wide array of species in a high arctic ecosystem. The strong responses and the large variability within species and taxa illustrate how easily biological interactions may be disrupted, and how dramatic responses to climatic changes can be for arctic ecosystems.

Monday, 18 June 2007

What new issues will biodiversity face in 2050?

The BES is involved in a horizon scanning exercise to assess novel threats and opportunities to biodiversity conservation in 2050. For example:

  • Climate change causes the loss of arctic alpine communities
  • Major policy push for tidal power impacts on coastal and estuarine systems
  • Nanotechnology debris causes an increase in land pollution into waterways
  • Decline in engagement with nature reduces peoples' interest in biodiversity

Please use the comment function to add your suggestion for a novel issue (i.e. not a continuation of a new one) and how it might affect biodiversity conservation (positevely or negatively).

Badger Culling and Bovine TB - ISG Report

The Independent Science Group has published its final report to Defra on options for controlling TB in cattle. The ISG found that: "while badgers are clearly a source of cattle TB, careful evaluation of our own and others’ data indicates that badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain. Indeed, some policies under consideration are likely to make matters worse rather than better." David Miliband has made an initial statement on the ISG's findings.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee is holding oral evidence sessions on the ISG's report.

BES Journals have recently published the following papers related to badger culling and bovine TB.