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.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Parliamentary Weekly News

The Joint Committee on the Draft Climate Change Bill
On Tuesday and Wednesday Oral evidence was given to the committee from major energy companies, airlines, The Royal Society, NGOs, the Californian Environmental Protection Agency, Malcolm Wicks MP, Minister of State for Science and Innovation, Department of Trade and Industry, Gillian Merron MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Transport, among others.

House of Commons questions
Chris Hune MP asked a written question: how many and what percentage of (a) priority habitats and (b) priority species under the Biodiversity Action Plan are decreasing; and which habitats and species are involved. Bary Gardiner MP responded with the latest figures from 2005, the next figures will be available in 2009.

House of Lords debate
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer spoke in a debate on UK membership in the EU, about the importance of environmental policy in the EU. Over 60 per cent of European directives concern environmental protection and improvement. She said that EU members now recognise that environmental concerns such as biodiversity and climate change, cross national boundaries and can be addressed more effectively colllectively, through the EU.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

New Guide to Bodiversity Indicators Launched

Barry Gardiner, Biodiversity Minister, today launched Biodiversity Indicators In Your Pocket 2007. The 18 indicators track the UK’s progress against international biodiversity targets. This is the first time that a comprehensive set of biodiversity indicators has been published for the UK.

The indicators are grouped under the six focal areas identified by the Convention on Biological Diversity and the European Council. They show the UK’s progress towards halting the decline of biodiversity by 2010. The pocket-sized booklet makes the indicators easily accessible to a wide audience and enables everyone to judge where progress is being made and where the challenges lie.

Increased Population of Otters

The Environment Agency Science Department 11-year study has found that otter populations are healthy and continue to expand across England and Wales. One factor behind this recovery may be decreasing levels of organochlorine chemicals (OCs), such as the insecticides dieldrin and aldrin, in the environment. These pesticides have been progressively withdrawn from use from 1962 and were banned in 1989.

Friday, 8 June 2007

House of Lords: Ecosystem Services

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked a written question on the assessment that has been made of the benefits of moving from quantification of the value of individual ecosystem services to quantification of the aggregated value of a range of services provided by different ecosystems; and what research has been commissioned to facilitate this calculation.

Lord Rooker (Minister of State (Sustainable Farming and Food), responded by saying that Government have commissioned several projects exploring the valuing of ecosystem services and which valuation techniques are most appropriate under different circumstances. Defra, the lead department, has identified a range of situations where aggregation of ecosystem services valuation will be important, including: when considering the multifunctional benefits at a given site or when calculating the likely changes in site values under different options in a decision; and development of national accounting processes that look at the aggregate value of natural capital in adjusted measures of economic prosperity.

G8 Countries Pledge Cuts in GHG Emissions

Yesterday leading economies, including the US pledged to make "substantial" cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and that "in setting a global goal for emissions reductions in the process we have agreed today involving all major emitters, we will consider seriously the decisions made by the European Union, Canada and Japan which include at least a halving of global emissions by 2050." Mr Bush also pledged that any successor treaty to the 1997 Kyoto accord would be negotiated through the United Nations, with the major emitters of GHGs linked to global warming seeking to find agreement by the end of next year. Read the G8 report.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Severn Barrage

On Wednesday in the House of Commons, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Wales discussed the possible development of the Severn Barrage which could create a significant supply of clean, electricity for the UK by harnessing the tidal flow of the Severn Estuary. Rt. Hon Peter Hain MP stated: "experience at La Rance river in France is that biodiversity can increase as a result of the construction of a barrage and that if we are not prepared to take bold steps to fight climate change, biodiversity will be, in a sense, a secondary matter". Read the full debate here.

The BES produced a booklet on the Ecological Impacts of Estuarine Barrages.

UK Biodiversity Action Plan - Report 2007

The Report on The Species and Habitat Review 2007 to the UK Biodiversity Partnership, part of the UK Government's response to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) (signed in 1992), has today been published and shows that the number of endangered species in Britain has almost doubled in 13 years. There are now 1,149 species of plants, mammals, birds and insects, and 67 different types of habitat under threat from climate change and human activity.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

World Environment Day

The topic for this years World Environment Day is Melting Ice – a Hot Topic? In support of International Polar Year, the focus will be on the effects that climate change is having on polar ecosystems and communities, and the ensuing consequences around the world. The main international celebrations of the World Environment Day 2007 will be held in Norway, in the City of Tromsø.

Nutrient Cycle

The Green Alliance published a report on the Nutrient Cycle: Closing the Loop. The report is intended to raise the political profile of the nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) cycles. The N and P cycles are much lower down the political agenda than the carbon cycle. However, due to links with climate change (nitrous oxide), effects on biodiversity and increased costs to water customers due to water treatment, Green Alliance believes there is a strong case for moving the nutrient cycle up the political agenda.

Friday, 1 June 2007

ACRE Recruiting New Board Member

The UK's Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) is seeking a new board member with expertise in insect ecology. The closing date for applications is 18 June 2007.

EU consultation on Aquaculture development

The aquaculture industry is growing quickly with pressure from falling catches of wild fish and increasing global demands for seafood. The EU Commission has opened a public consultation to look at the opportunities in aquaculture and potential challenges for the environment and public health. The consultation closes 15 July 2007.