The UK Overseas Territories - The UK's hidden natural treasures
The 14 UK Overseas Territories hold some of the world's most remarkable environments, from vast coral reefs to windswept albatross islands, and over 90% of the threatened wildlife for which the UK is responsible. These environments are, however, highly vulnerable. Whilst Territory environmental protection laws and policies follow good practice in some important areas, many Territories have significant gaps in their environmental governance which urgently need to be addressed.
In a welcome and ambitious passage in the 2012 Overseas Territories White Paper, the Prime Minister wrote: 'We see an important opportunity to set world standards inour stewardship of the extraordinary natural environments we have inherited'. The White Paper also announced a new strategic priority to ensure that the Territories 'abide by the same basic standards of good government as in the UK'.
To inform a concrete roadmap for these political ambitions, the RSPB and the Foundation for International Environmental Law & Development (FIELD) have completed the first-ever analysis of environmental protection legislation and policy across all 14 Overseas Territories. This will enable the UK Government to fulfil its White Paper commitments by identifying good practice and outlining areas for improvement. A follow-up report in 2015 will measure progress. Major improvements are within reach and much of this can be achieved within existing budgetary constraints.
- Enable the UK Government to fulfill its White Paper ambitions to 'cherish the environments' of the Overseas Territories and 'strengthen good government'
Work planned or underway
The analysis revealed that there are important areas of good practice, but that many OTs still have significant gaps in their environmental governance which urgently need to be filled.
- Gibraltar is the Overseas Territory that best demonstrates good practice across the board.
- The British Virgin Islands has notable good practice in its site protections.
- St Helena has notable good practice in its development control mechanisms.
Priorities for Improvement:
- 9 UK Overseas Territories don’t have strong networks of terrestrial protected areas.
- 4 Territories don’t have any marine protected areas.
- 5 Territories have no requirements for EIAs before permitting major developments.
- At least 5 major environment bills, which would fill in many of the most pressing gaps in their environmental governance, have stalled in OT legislatures.
Increased input and strategically-focussed support from the UK Government is essential if the White Paper's aims are to be met and the UK's most exotic wildlife saved for future generations.
UK Overseas Territories environmental governance background assessments
Environmental governance background assessments for Anguila, Ascension, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn, South Georgia, St Helena, Tristan da Cunha, and Turks & Caicos Islands.
Date: 12 March 2013
Who to contact
Head of UK Overseas Territories Unit
Anguilla National Trust http://www.axanationaltrust.org/
Anguilla Department of Environment http://www.gov.ai/doenvironment/
Ascension Island Government http://ascensionconservation.org.ac/
Bermuda Audubon Society http://www.audubon.bm/
Chagos Conservation Trust http://www.chagosconservationtrust.org/
BVI National Parks Trust http://www.bvinationalparkstrust.org/
Cayman Islands Department of Environment http://www.caymanbiodiversity.com/
Cayman Islands National Trust http://www.nationaltrust.org.ky/
Falklands Conservation http://www.falklandsconservation.com/
Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society http://www.gonhs.org/
Montserrat Department of Environment http://www.malhe.gov.ms/
Montserrat National Trust http://www.montserratnationaltrust.ms/
St Helena National Trust http://www.nationaltrust.org.sh/
Tristan Island Agriculture and Natural Resources Department http://www.tristandc.com/wildlife.php
Turks and Caicos National Trust http://www.nationaltrust.tc/