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The UK Overseas Territories - The UK's hidden natural treasures

UKOTs Albatross

Image: The RSPB

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'.

In the first phase of a new project the RSPB has made an assessment of progress in Overseas Territories' environmental governance since 2012. This is based on a previous study we conducted three years ago (see below).

Project objectives

  • Map out gains achieved in Overseas Territories' environmental governance in the past three years, namely between 2012 and 2015.
  • Help determine whether the high-level environmental ambitions of Overseas Territory and UK Governments are being met, and how.
  • Identify whether shared solutions exist for the remaining gaps, and therefore where resources and support should be strategically focussed.

Work planned or underway

Analysis reveals that:

- Environmental governance in many Overseas Territories is advancing at pace. Seven major pieces of environment-related legislation have been adopted, and other legislation is due for adoption.
- Capacity assistance from the UK Government has helped, in particular, on policy relating to trade in endangered species. Reasons for progress include political vision, focus, and injection of capacity and financing assistance.
- The analysis also reveals at least seven pieces of key legislation remain stalled in administrations.
- Development regulation and accountability remain the two weakest areas.

This study confined itself to four areas of policy: protection of wild species, valuable wildlife sites, standards in the permitting of development and good governance in these processes. It restricted itself to legislation and formally adopted policies, not their implementation.

A second phase of the project, due to report in early 2017, will look at further policy areas.


An assessment of environmental protection frameworks in the UK Overseas Territories

An assessment of environmental protection frameworks in the UK Overseas Territories

1.33Mb, PDF

The 14 UK Overseas Territories (OTs) are home to some of the world’s most remarkable wildlife. These unique environments, ranging from vast coral reefs to windswept albatross islands, are highly vulnerable, containing over 90% of the threatened biodiversity for which the UK is responsible.

Date: 12 March 2013


UK Overseas Territories environmental governance background assessments

2.25Mb, Zip

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

Jonathan Hall
Head of UK Overseas Terrritories Unit


Anguilla National Trust

Anguilla Department of Environment

Ascension Island Government

Bermuda Audubon Society

Chagos Conservation Trust

BVI National Parks Trust

Cayman Islands Department of Environment

Cayman Islands National Trust

Falklands Conservation

Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society

Montserrat Department of Environment

Montserrat National Trust

St Helena National Trust

Tristan Island Agriculture and Natural Resources Department

Turks and Caicos National Trust


This work has been generously funded by a grant from the John Ellerman Foundation.