It is odd that a respected MPs’ committee has today claimed that badger culling will help curb TB in cattle. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee says in its report on the role of badgers in transmitting bovine TB, that farmers could be allowed to kill badgers so long as their action meets several conditions. The Committee refers frequently to the need for agreement to a cull from the scientists forming the government-appointed Independent Scientific Group (ISG) who have spent so much time studying possible links between badgers and bovine TB. But they ignore the conclusions of those scientists, published in June 2007, that ‘badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain’ and that ‘the rising incidence of disease can be reversed, and geographical spread constrained, by the rigid application of cattle-based control measures alone’. The RSPB grazes cattle on many of its nature reserves to stop vegetation becoming too dense for wildlife so we sympathise with farmers whose herds have been infected. But there is still no proof that culling badgers would have stopped those infections or that it will prevent outbreaks in future. Because of that, we will not voluntarily allow badger culling on our land. The ISG says small-scale culling could cause bovine TB to spread while eliminating badgers over a larger area would be both costly and difficult. A widespread cull could also seriously reduce badger numbers, putting at risk their conservation status. The MPs admit in their report that culling badgers alone will not eradicate bovine TB. They are right. Vaccines for badgers and cattle must be developed rapidly to properly tackle the disease. More cattle testing and preventative measures on farms are also important. It is crucial that money is not wasted on other, flawed, means of disease control.
This morning came news that managers are regularly working an average of 1.25 hours extra each day, just for the love of it.
If that is true, how can it be that so few senior executives have taken time to recognise the seriousness of climate change and how it will affect their businesses?
The Financial Times reports that a survey for the accountants KPMG found that those in charge have rarely put in place plans to deal with climate change. Few knew of the government’s target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2050. Presumably, fewer still realise that that figure should be 80 per cent if temperature rise this century is to be kept in reasonable check.
Governments should take the lead in initiating measures and taking action on climate change but business, especially the corporations for which the UK is a major base, must follow close behind.
Charities like the RSPB, WWF and Friends of the Earth can do their campaigning bit but that is small fry compared to the multinational muscle of companies like Shell, Barclays and Volkswagen.
Several times recently firms like these have called on politicians to take the lead, give them a framework within which to cut their emissions while maintaining and increasing their profits.
It will take a great deal of action to make any sort of dent in these companies' shareholder incomes. Excuses won’t do. Shareholders have grandchildren too.
Click here for the FT's KPMG report
And here for how we can cut greenhouse gas emissions
In his speech in Brussels on Thursday evening Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas also said: 'We have very important targets to achieve for renewable energies but we need to be very careful about how and where they are developed. We need to make sure that when promoting biofuels we are not encouraging the destruction of habitats.'
How refreshing to find a politician understanding the issues so clearly and describing them so well.
Biofuels produce low carbon savings, exacerbate world hunger through removing land from food production and accelerate biodiversity loss through habitat destruction.
To be fair, many of us, including the RSPB, were a bit slow to realise the full impacts of biofuels so politicians, perhaps, cannot be blamed for being slow on the uptake too.
But where they can be blamed, and will be blamed, is when having realised the error of their previous views they remain inactive in changing damaging and discredited policies in future.
Anyone can be wrong – but those who remain inactive once they have realised their previous error are indeed culpable. When will UK politicians act decisively on this global issue?
London mayoral candidate, Boris Johnson, is sitting tight on his Heathrow-on-Sea bandwagon despite all the howls of protest, voiced most loudly by the RSPB.
Boris, who slated incumbent Ken Livingstone’s green credentials at hustings yesterday, wants Heathrow expansion plans halted and a new airport built in the heavily protected Thames Estuary.
Or at least that’s what he told the Sunday Times this week. Yesterday he decided it was City Airport that should be shifted. Hmmm.
Ken, meanwhile, accused by Boris of incurring criminally high flying bills, says he will not relocate City Airport but close it altogether as part of his drive to cut the capital’s carbon.
He’s promised unpopular measures to achieve this aim but is pacifying voters with hints of an artificial beach on which visitors can soak up the sun's globally warmed rays.
He’s promised a ban on aviation expansion too, and plans to make Rainham Marshes ‘the biggest bird sanctuary in Europe’. A Thames Estuary airport would devastate those proposals, he says.
Ken is right and Boris should realise that there will be no appeasing those joining the massive protest an estuary airport proposal would spark. The idea has come, and gone, several times in the past two decades and will be shot down again if Mr Johnson doesn’t see sense.
The estuary boasts as much protection as any site in Europe because of its value to wild birds, and Boris would be foolish if he were to ignore this. And if he cares not a jot for wildlife he must surely bear in mind the terrible consequences of just a handful of the estuary’s 200,000 birds flying straight into an aircraft’s engine.
Don’t go there Boris, if you want to be Mayor for long.
Click here for the RSPB's reaction to Boris's Big Idea
Almost 90 per cent of people in Europe believe loss of wildlife is a serious problem, according to a poll.
Extinction rates are now 100 times higher than the natural level and the Climatic Atlas of European Breeding Birds, published last month by BirdLife, predicts that global warming will cause many species to lose the space they need and rely on.
In a speech last night, Stavros Dimas, the EU’s environment commissioner, acknowledged this warning and called for wildlife conservation to move to the top of the political agenda.
It’s a good call and one that his European colleagues should heed. The UK’s own politicians must do so too.
Late last year, the RSPB revealed its hopes of buying three-quarters of Wallasea Island in Essex and turning it into a huge wetland. The project is our biggest, most ambitious and most costly in the UK but will be worth it if we raise the £12 million we need.
Its aim is to create space into which wildlife can move. The species we are thinking of are those being forced away from current strongholds because those habitats are becoming warmer, wetter or dryer. They are creatures that will struggle to hang on if they have no-where else to go.
At the time, Graham Wynne, the RSPB’s Chief Executive, described the project as one to create a ‘supermarket for birds’, ‘a true wilderness’.
And so it will be but many more supermarkets will be needed. One, on the east coast, albeit a large one, is not going to do the trick.
If the government builds a barrage across the Severn, European law means ministers must replace the estuary’s lost wetlands with a new and equally good site. That amount of space alone will be difficult to find with saltmarshes and mudflats disappearing at a rate of 100 hectares every year. Finding other new areas the size of Wallasea will be close to impossible.
The answer is not just to buy up more land but to make land outside of nature reserves more wildlife-friendly. That means more hedges and ponds on farmland and the replacement of the benefits of lost set-aside.
It means the protection of heathlands threatened by housing developments and improvements in forestry management to stop woodlands falling barren.
It also means turning new areas into stepping-stones between old and deteriorating strongholds, and new, pre-adapted areas like Wallasea. But most of all it means buy-in from all government departments so that all of their policies include measures to help wildlife cope.
Commissioner Dimas is surprised that wildlife protection is not higher up the political agenda. The UK government must make it so if it really wants to be the world’s leader on action to tackle climate change.
More here on what Commissioner Dimas said
And read about our plans for Wallasea here