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.