Select Committee on International Development Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the RSPB


  1.1  The RSPB is Europe's largest wildlife charity with over one million members. We are the UK partner of BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of environment organisations, which has more than 2.5 million members in 103 countries and owns conservation estates in excess of a million hectares (there are BirdLife Partners in Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone).

  1.2  Site-based conservation, in which land is set aside on which to conserve wildlife and its habitats, form the backbone of much of the work of the RSPB and BirdLife. In addition to protecting wildlife, such protected areas yield multiple socio-economic benefits. For example, they provide local employment and amenity value for both local and foreign visitors. Indeed, wildlife and eco-tourism resulting from the presence of parks and reserves is a significant source of foreign income for many developing countries, especially in Africa.

  1.3  Climate change poses fundamental problems for nature conservation worldwide, threatening both the environment and the people who depend upon natural resources. This memorandum outlines this threat and identifies mechanisms both for minimising environmental degradation and lowering greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries.


  2.1  As the world's climate changes, zones of similar climate will move to varying extents. For example, in the UK, they will tend to move northwestwards and upwards in elevation. In West Africa, drier, desert conditions will tend to move southwards. In Brazil, drier conditions are likely to move southwestwards, from the Northeast, into Amazonia.

  2.2  Plants and animals will tend to move with the moving climatic zones. This clearly poses problems for a global system of nature conservation based primarily upon protected areas of land that will not move. Moreover, not all species will move at the same rate. Those in the middle of their ranges may not move at all, whereas those at the extremes of their ranges will, or risk extinction. New ecosytems are thus likely to emerge, and some existing ones will be lost. The unique Great Karoo ecosystem in South Africa may, for example, disappear.

  2.3  Species movements are likely to be complicated and often aggravated by an increase in extreme weather events (such as storminess), sea level rise in coastal areas, and a host of development pressures exacerbated by climate change. (Increasing desertification in much of Africa will, for example, lead to increased foraging for firewood in protected areas.)

  2.4  The wildlife parks and reserves that are the principal source of income in some of the poorest developing countries, and a significant source in many more, are thus likely to change substantially as a result of climate change and, in many cases, for the worse.


  3.1  In the short term, there is an urgent need for more research into the extent of regional and local climate change and its impacts. Whilst there is increasing levels of work on these topics in developed countries, there is comparatively little covering developing countries.

  3.2  Climate change modelling work, which is very expensive, is likely to continue to be performed in developed countries in the near future. On the other hand, research into impacts and the development of adaptation strategies, where local knowledge is essential, is best done primarily at a local level.

  3.3  It is particularly important that adaptation of nature conservation strategies is performed at the local level, because it is essential that it not only takes into account the local environment but is also integrated into local sustainable development plans. Whilst it will be necessary to broadly develop and coordinate adaptation strategies at the international level, their practical delivery must be local.

  3.4  A number of international and regional agreements provide for the establishment and maintenance of wildlife parks and reserves. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), for example provides for the establishment of protected areas, worldwide, as does the World Heritage Convention and the Ramsar Convention. The "continental" conventions such as the African and Americas wildlife treaties, and other regional agreements such as some of the UNEP Regional Seas agreements, have similar provisions.

  3.5  Many of these treaties also contain provisions for financial support from developed to developing countries. The CBD, for example, provides for support both bilaterally and via the Global Environment Facility (GEF, which also serves the Climate Change Convention and the Convention on Desertification). The UK should offer increased support for adaptation of nature conservation policy via both. It should also offer support for integrating such adaptation policies into broader sustainable development plans.


  4.1  The Kyoto Protocol (together with the more detailed agreements reached in Bonn and Marrakesh in 2001) provides an excellent basis for achieving low emission development in developing countries. It specifically provides for fast-tracking of smaller-scale renewable energy projects in developing countries, especially least developed ones, via the Clean Development Mechanism. This is intended primarily as a business investment tool, rather than a government aid provision. DFID should therefore promote and facilitate UK business use of the Mechanism for smaller renewables projects in least developed countries.

  4.2  The Government should not promote carbon sequestration projects via the Clean Development Mechanism, certainly until the detailed biodiversity safeguards for such projects are resolved by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds)

January 2002

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