The All Party Parliamentary Biodiversity Group (APPBG) met in the Macmillan Room of the House of Commons on 19 July 2011. Whilst the majority of eyes were on the appearance of the Murdochs at the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee next door, we managed to make our way past the placards and through the impressive security to the launch. Ours was all in all a much more informative, enthusiastic and friendly affair – plenty of sandwiches but not a custard pie in sight!
The group was established in March 2011 with the aim of providing a forum for cross-party parliamentarians, senior policy makers, academics, leading industry figures and other interested parties to have an informed discussion on all aspects of protecting biodiversity in the UK and abroad. A wide range of members were present, including a number of MPs, consultants, Natural England, the British Ecological Society, Bat Conservation Trust and IEEM.
MP Barry Gardiner, chair of the group, led with a speech highlighting the role of the APPBG, including how the group can work together to raise the profile of biodiversity in Parliament and the management of focused research projects to investigate key policy issues for protecting biodiversity in the UK and the promotion of solutions to government. Martin Brasher, Deputy Director of Biodiversity at Defra, provided the keynote speech and took questions from the floor. These covered a wide range of topics and gave an indication of issues that will be addressed by the Group, including the place of biodiversity in education, concerns over the proposed biodiversity off-setting schemes, and a request for Mr Gardiner and Mr Brasher to name their favourite animals (humans and adder respectively!).
As outlined by Barry Gardiner MP, the Group will seek to promote the protection of biodiversity in Parliament, in business and across the wider community and will work to:
• Highlight the loss of biodiversity and its implications for the natural environment and the UK economy
• Highlight the economic cost of the loss of biodiversity and the benefits of restoring the natural environment
• Highlight the business benefits of protecting biodiversity
• Highlight policies that threaten biodiversity
• Recommend to Government and Parliament solutions to protecting and restoring biodiversity
• Hold the Government to account, by inviting Ministers and officials to meetings, to the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan; its obligations under the EU target to halt the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020; and its obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity
To achieve this, the Group will:
• Regularly inform Parliamentarians of the importance of protecting biodiversity in the UK and abroad
• Organise regular meetings at which interested parties are able to discuss policy proposals to promote the protection of biodiversity
• Manage a programme of focused research projects to investigate key policy-issues for protecting biodiversity in the UK and propose innovative potential solutions to government
• Improve communication between policy makers, opinion formers and other stakeholders on biodiversity
Ecosulis is looking forward to being fully involved in future APPBG events that are planned throughout the year, and being part of a group that could provide an important platform to influence decision-making within parliament.