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Environmental Philanthropy: Stories to Inspire

Strengthening environmental policy across multiple jurisdictions

The UK’s little-known Overseas Territories are found in every ocean basin on the planet and are of incredible environmental significance, holding 94 per cent of the UK’s unique species and every major habitat type on Earth. Eleven of the 14 Territories are inhabited, and these Territories have their own Governments, elected representatives and legislative frameworks. Whilst the level of devolution from the UK Government varies greatly between them, environmental protection is always a devolved competency.

Recognising the importance of Territory environments and our responsibility to British nature wherever it occurs, we are proud to have established a ground-breaking programme funding Territory conservation, highlighting time and again the significant positive impacts that can be achieved through our funding. We have also learnt that some core elements of good environmental governance can be missing and that baseline levels of knowledge of biodiversity are patchy.

We provided a two-year, £30,000 grant to the RSPB to analyse environmental governance across the Territories as a means of celebrating good practice and identifying priority gaps. The RSPB is a larger organisation than our normal grant recipients, but we recognised that they are the only major conservation NGO with a holistic cross-Territory programme that can deliver work of this kind. They reviewed and compared biodiversity protection, controls on built development and biosecurity frameworks across all 14 Territories, plus specifically analysed commercial fisheries policy in the five South Atlantic Territories. They did everything collaboratively with Territory Governments, who were given the opportunity to verify and comment upon the draft analyses before wider publication.

The very process of reviewing environmental policies spurred action, with the St Helena Government adjusting its entire legislative timetable so as to pass its long-awaited omnibus Environmental Protection Ordinance in time for its inclusion in the assessment. The Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands meanwhile committed to addressing its gap in Environmental Impact Assessment controls via a late addition to the new five-year strategy it was working on.

Whilst considerable weaknesses were found in areas of development planning and control, the report was also able to celebrate seven major pieces of environmental legislation which had passed in the previous three years, providing important positive recognition to politicians who may not always feel they get rewarded for doing the right thing. The legacy of this project has meanwhile been considerable: the UK Government has developed model Territory biosecurity legislation to address the widespread identified gap in this area, with seven Territories so far committing to adapt and implement it. Finally, the findings of the commercial fisheries policy review have had positive implications for fisheries policy in at least one South Atlantic Territory, and NGOs now have a valuable resource with which to focus their in-Territory advocacy efforts.