Friday, 20 April 2007

Draft Climate Change Bill - Parliamentary Scrutiny

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee is conducting an inquiry into the Draft Climate Change Bill. It will look at targets, carbon budgeting, adaptation and other aspects of the Bill. Written evidence needs to be sent to the Committee by the 8 May.

Welsh Assembly Elections

The Welsh Assembly elections are on 3 May. The following pledges from the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru manifestos may be of interest to ecologists:

Science funding and education: The Conservatives pledge a general increase in higher education funding. The Liberal Democrats want to make Wales a world leader in “eco-technology and research”. Plaid Cymru wants to focus research money on renewables. Labour pledges more outdoor education and eco-schools.

Environment: All four parties pledge to cut CO2 emissions. The Liberal Democrat’s have a target of 100% renewable energy by 2050. Plaid Cymru propose the creation of a national forest of native trees and a Marine Bill. Labour supports action to halt the decline in biodiversity and to look at marine reserves. The Liberal Democrats promise to support marine spatial planning, halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010 and promote biodiversity through agri-environment schemes. The Conservatives offer similar promises on agri-environment schemes and halting biodiversity loss by 2010.

Scottish Parliamentary Elections

The Scottish Parliament elections are on 3 May. Issues raised in the Conservative, Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Scottish Socialist Party and Scottish National Party manifesto pledges relevant to ecology are:

Science funding and education: Labour and the SNP pledge measures to boost the life sciences and offer measures to promote science in schools. The Greens specifically support outdoor education and funding to promote it.

Environment: Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have promised 60% reductions in CO2 by 2050, the SNP and Scottish Socialists have pledged 3% cuts per annum and the Greens want an annual cut of 4.5%. The Liberal Democrats promise to stop the loss of biodiversity by 2010, preserve peatlands and create a marine park. Labour also favour a marine park and moot reintroductions, giving beaver as an example. The Greens pledge more funding for biodiversity conservation, a program of ecological restoration and marine parks. The SNP and the Conservatives have pledged to place fishermen’s interests at the centre of their marine strategy.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

European Research Area

The European Commission has published a Green Paper on options to 'deepen and widen' the European Research Area (ERA) so that it better contributes to the Lisbon agenda. ERA looks to create an 'internal market' for research in the EU; European-level co-ordination for research activities; and initiatives implemented and funded at the European-level. A consultation on the Green Paper will open on 1 May and run to 31 August 2007.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Ecology, Politics and Policy

The BES Presidential Address by Sir John Lawton has been published on-line by the Journal of Applied Ecology. Sir John examines how ecology has or has not contributed to policy in a number of areas (fisheries, GM crops). Building upon work in the social sciences, he argues that it is wrong to assume that 'correct' policies will result from better scientific understanding by politicians. Ecologists can, and do, influence government policy on the environment, but often via complex and iterative interactions. He suggests the BES could focus on providing scientific advice to politicians and policy-makers and to argue the "ecological corner" through:

  • Providing independent, authoritative, in-depth analysis of environmental issues
  • Acting as a 'knowledge broker' between primary researchers and policy-makers
  • Acting as a 'policy entrepreneur' by taking novel approaches to difficult problems by working in collaboration with other groups
  • Providing a long-term 'enlightenment function' by working to change the framework of the debate and seeking ultimately to alter belief systems and deeply entrenched values

Ecological Engagement Award

Who has made an outstanding contribution to getting ecology out of the scientific community and used by policymakers, the media, business, conservationists or other parties? The BES has created the Ecological Engagement Award to recognise such as person. They could be a practicing scientists or someone from a user community. The winner will receive a £1000 prize and an award at the BES annual meeting. Please send your nominations to the BES by the 23 April 2007.

Environment and Security

What can ecologists contribute to international security? Margaret Beckett, the UK's Foreign Secretary, made an intervention at the UN to raise climate change as an issue for the Security Council to consider. In the USA, Senators are bringing forward legislation to ensure that the intelligence community considers climate change in its security assessments. Both look at ecological aspects of climate change impacts, such as changes to agricultural systems and the spread of infectious diseases.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

IPCC - Ecological Impacts of Climate Change

The IPPC AR4 Summary for Policymakers on Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability has been published. The report found that there was more observational data linking ecological changes to climate change and in particular temperature increases. The report also assessed the current knowledge about future impacts on ecosystems, which highlighted the following issues:

  • The resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded this century by an unprecedented combination of climate change, associated disturbances (e.g., flooding, drought, wildfire, insects, ocean acidification), and other global change drivers (e.g., land use change, pollution, over-exploitation of resources).
  • Over the course of this century net carbon uptake by terrestrial ecosystems is likely to peak before mid-century and then weaken or even reverse, thus amplifying climate change.
  • Approximately 20-30% of plant and animal species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5-2.5oC.
  • For increases in global average temperature exceeding 1.5-2.5°C and in concomitant atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, there are projected to be major changes in ecosystem structure and function, species’ecological interactions, and species’ geographic ranges, with predominantly negative consequences for biodiversity, and ecosystem goods and services (e.g., water and food supply).
  • The progressive acidification of oceans due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is expected to have negative impacts on marine shell forming organisms (e.g., corals) and their dependent species.

GB Strategy for Invasive Non-Native Species

A draft of the GB Invasive Non-native Species Framework Strategy is out for consultation until 23 May 2007. The draft strategy's vision is to protect against the adverse consequences of invasive non-native species by increasing awareness, improving co-ordination amongst a range of parties and a providing framework for action at all levels. It also looks to encourage research to be more effective at informing policy and action. The consultation asks a range of questions, which the BES will be responding to.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007


There is global consultation underway on creating an International Mechanism on Scientific Expertise of Biodiversity (IMoSEB). The push for an IMoSEB comes out of an understanding that 1) biodiversity is being lost at a significant rate, which has consequences for ecosystem services and that 2) intergovernmental scientific panels (e.g. the IPCC) have led to action nationally and globally. The consultative process is first looking to assess if there is a need for an IMoSEB and if there is such a need what form should it take. There is an on-line forum to discuss its development and also regional meetings being held around the globe.

BES-Defra Ministerial Shadowing Scheme

Barry Gardiner MP, Minister for Biodiversity, invited five young ecologists to shadow him and Defra officials to get an insight into how Defra operates. The shadowing scheme proved very successful and will be repeated next year. The key points the shadowing scheme members gained from the experience are that ecologists need to:
  • Understand that policymakers have to deal with a number of competing societal and economic pressures
  • Communicate information in a clear and concise manner as information that reaches the Minister is highly condensed
  • Listen to policymakers and understand public values
  • Communicate their research not just policymakers, but also to the public and other interested parties (e.g. farmers)