Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) Inquiry into Biodiversity and Ecosystems
JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee) Response
JNCC is the public body that advises the UK Government and devolved administrations on UK-wide and international nature conservation. This response addresses the following selected questions from the Inquiry that have a UK-wide or international focus:
Within the UK, biodiversity monitoring is primarily a devolved responsibility. Overall, reasonably good data are available on the state of biodiversity (although there are some gaps in coverage, particularly for marine biodiversity). Some activities affecting biodiversity are monitored effectively, but direct measurement of the impacts of UK activities is more limited. The State of Nature Report provides an overview of the state of biodiversity in the UK and the main pressures causing biodiversity loss (e.g. climate change, land use change and management, fisheries and pollution). The UK biodiversity indicators (updated annually) provide trends for 24 indicators and 49 measures.
Consumption (of food, timber, etc) is one of the biggest drivers of land conversion and biodiversity and carbon impacts at a global scale. Fifty percent of food consumed within the UK comes from overseas. The 25 Year Environment Plan identifies sustainable consumption as a goal.
The UK is a key global consumer of wildlife controlled by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). During 2012-2016 the UK was the 11th highest global importer (2% of global transactions of CITES-listed taxa).
With development assistance, the main challenge is to understand and manage the impacts of measures taken through programmes, such as International Climate Finance, on biodiversity, climate change mitigation and adaptation and poverty alleviation, given the often data-poor environments in which projects operate. JNCC is engaged in a review of ways this situation can be improved.
JNCC plays a key role in assisting country-level monitoring of biodiversity in the UK through:
In the Overseas Territories JNCC assists with monitoring of biodiversity, and any impacting activities or pressures, through specific collaborative projects (e.g. impacts of hurricanes and climate change in the Caribbean, sustainable land and sea management, natural capital assessments). This includes through developing monitoring programmes to help the Territories implement relevant 25 Year Environment Plan indicators in both the terrestrial and marine environment.
As the UK’s CITES Scientific Authority (fauna), JNCC is responsible for ensuring that CITES-listed imports do not have a harmful effect on the conservation status of species or the extent of the territory occupied by the relevant population.
JNCC is working on development of an indicator to estimate the extent of the biodiversity impact overseas caused by UK economic activity.
Recommendations for improvement
How has the Government performed against the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and what further progress is needed?
JNCC has produced an overview report of the UK’s progress towards the targets.
For the UK as a whole, the targets on mainstreaming (#2), protected areas (#11), implementation of the Nagoya Protocol (#16), national biodiversity strategy (#17), and mobilisation of information and research (#19) are assessed as on track to achieve the target. In Scotland nine targets (#1, # 2, #13, #15, #16, #17, #18 and #19) are on track. Some targets have proved particularly challenging despite the progress that has been made (e.g. pollution #8, climate change #10, threatened species #12, and ecosystem resilience and restoration #15).
The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) global assessment has recognised the need for ‘transformative change’ in society if the 2050 vision of the Convention of Biological Diversity and the Sustainable Development Goals are to be achieved.
Recommendations for further progress
Where should the four nations prioritise resources to tackle biodiversity loss?
Each nation within the UK has its own environmental policies, including measures to tackle biodiversity loss. However, there are some common themes that are relevant to all four countries and also some areas where the UK as a whole has responsibilities.
The most important causes of biodiversity loss globally are habitat change, management and destruction (including deforestation and overexploitation), climate change, pollution and introduction of invasive species (IPBES, 2019). In the UK, the recent UK-wide State of Nature Report identified climate change, agriculture and air pollution as key pressures on biodiversity.
Recommendations for resource allocation
Rather than focus on each driver in isolation JNCC recommends a holistic approach that delivers multiple benefits, noting that the breadth of policies, regulations and incentives will be different for each administration in the UK. This will only be achieved by addressing the IPBES indirect drivers of change as well as the direct drivers. Specifically:
How can policy be better integrated to address biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development?
Biodiversity loss and climate change can only be addressed effectively if there is genuine integration of policy across all sectors of government. The main threats to the environment come from sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, infrastructure development and transportation. Environmental, economic and social issues need to be fully considered when developing policy. The underpinning evidence will often be derived from interdisciplinary approaches that integrate ecosystem-orientated management and economic decision-making. JNCC’s work has demonstrated the value of such an approach, including through many projects within the UK Overseas Territories, such as mitigation of storm surge and flooding associated with major hurricane events. There are opportunities to take similar approaches in the UK, for example as countries establish new policy and funding mechanisms to replace the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.
Recommendations for policy integration
How well is the UK addressing biodiversity loss in its Overseas Territories and in international development partnerships with other countries?
Environment is a devolved responsibility to the UK’s Overseas Territories (OTs), which have globally important wildlife populations, with over 32,216 native species, at least 1,549 of which are endemic (UK State of Nature, 2019).
JNCC has worked in the OTs for two decades and prepared the 2011 UK OT Biodiversity Strategy on behalf of Defra. JNCC supports the OTs, and UK Government, in the implementation of Multilateral Environmental Agreements and UK Government policy in the Territories (including application of the 25 Year Environment Plan). Other JNCC work in the OTs has involved implementing a series of Environmental Mainstreaming / Green Economy projects, demonstrating how biodiversity supports economic security and disaster resilience, applying natural capital techniques and developing Coral Reef Action Plans.
Since 2016, JNCC has implemented projects in Chile, Colombia, Peru, Namibia and South Africa, through UK Government funding, some of which was Official Development Assistance (ODA). This work used UK expertise and adopted an ‘ODA compliant’ approach, simultaneously benefitting livelihoods, disaster resilience and biodiversity.
Recommendations (some of which are based on JNCC’s response to the 2019 ‘Safeguarding the environment in British Overseas Territories: call for evidence’
Which nature-based solutions are most effective in achieving both climate and biodiversity goals?
Nature-based solutions are an approach, rather than a set of off-the-shelf projects or practices. They will be as effective in achieving multi-layered objectives as the level of effort put into their design and management.
To the best of our knowledge there has been no stringent assessment of the effectiveness of nature-based solution type projects in the UK to date but several groups are working on this, including the Inter-agency Climate Change Group, the British Ecological Society, the Nature-based Solutions Initiative at Oxford University and Defra. The concept has gained much interest and attention internationally as well and will be an important part of the agenda for the UN Climate Change Conference (CoP 26) in 2021.
JNCC’s work on nature-based solutions has included projects on mitigation of hurricane impacts in the Caribbean, enhancement of agricultural resilience to climate change in Peru, Colombia and Chile and demonstration of the value of Marine Protected Areas in climate change mitigation. Each of these projects was designed on an individual basis, working with local communities to consider the specific ecological, geographical and socio-economical context.
What would constitute clear indicators of progress and cost-effectiveness of nature-based solutions and how should trade-offs and co-benefits associated with nature-based solutions, biodiversity and socioeconomic outcomes be considered?
Nature-based solutions are context-dependent and should be tailored depending on the problem, the location and even the governance. Trade-offs should be considered at the design stage when options, benefits, costs and beneficiaries are discussed among stakeholders. As most people prefer benefits received now as opposed to in the future, the value of future benefits may be given less weight in the calculation of net present value. This can be accommodated with adjustments to the interest rate employed for the calculation.
Nature-based solution indicators should be:
How can funding be mobilised to support effective nature-based solutions to climate change? How can the private sector be encouraged to contribute to funding?
To attract investment in nature-based solutions there is a need for interface between public and private sectors. Five elements are likely to determine the interest of the private sector in any particular investment: regulatory compliance, net revenue, risk, reputation and resilience.
Several aspects of nature-based solutions may moderate private sector interest: (1) the public or diffuse nature of the benefits; (2) the long payback period that can be experienced before positive net returns are achieved; and (3) the long-term cost commitment. Innovative ways must be considered to alleviate any burden perceived by the private sector from these characteristics.
There is an increasing number of publications in this area, with the European Commission, the Green Finance Institute, the Natural Capital Finance Alliance and many others putting together guidance for investors to contribute to nature-based solutions.
Drivers to unlocking investment include: