Steph talks Brexit and biodiversity

August 03, 2020

RSK Biocensus Managing Director Steph Wray has told Prospect magazine that the UK should not throw out EU species protection legislation post-Brexit, and that international cooperation remains vital to protecting endangered European species. Steph’s article, which was published last week, addresses UK Environment Secretary George Eustice’s recent environmental recovery speech, which suggested a possible lowering of biodiversity protections.

“The ecological reality is that nature doesn’t respect geopolitical boundaries,” Steph explained. “Species cross borders, and that means anyone who wants to protect nature will need to be involved in international cooperation.

“Many of the species essential for the quality of British air, water and crops are not unique to our shores. Our wildlife is part of the ecogeographic region of mainland Europe, to and from which birds, seals and fish freely move. Even some bats travel thousands of miles and cross the North Sea.

“If a European species is endangered, a pan-European approach is needed to identify where the surviving pockets are, so that a coordinated effort can be made to protect them,” she continued.

Earlier this month, however, UK Environment Secretary George Eustice commented that there was “no point leaving the EU to keep everything the same” and talked about the “negative consequences to attempting to legislate for [biodiversity] matters at a supranational level.” Essentially, “what George Eustice said was full of hints that biodiversity protection may be watered down once we leave the EU,” says Steph.

“The purpose of supranational law [however] is to act as the floor, not the ceiling,” Steph adds. “There has never been any barrier to trying ‘new things’ that go further than the law and better enhance species protection. Eustice’s suggestion that only by leaving the EU would the UK have the freedom to try different ways of protecting species and then rethink them if they don’t work suggests we can now expect a lowering of protections. Parties to the International Convention on Biological Diversity are now working on a post-2020 framework and it is clear that the next ten years are critical in turning back the tide of biodiversity loss.

“That’s why now is not the time to try things out and tinker with them, or to take a ‘Little Britain’ approach to minding our own hedgehogs,” Steph concludes. “We do still have time, but what we need is international cooperation, and not to throw out EU species protection legislation in a bonfire of red tape.”

You can read Steph’s article in full on the Prospect website.