Brexit – still time for to influence UK environmental policy

The Shakespearean theatre of Brexit completed its final act yesterday on 31st January 2020.  Accomplishment of a damaging misrepresentation or a visionary “taking back of control”, according to your viewpoint. We now need to move on.

Wild Europe marked the occasion by funding the latest stage of a wild nature mapping and strategy programme by our partners in France.

There is scope for us all to influence the consequences for environmental policy, from within the UK and – for a short while – also through pan European representation to EC negotiators

Our suited Briton has finally sawn off his branch
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A landmark for conservation

As Slovakia’s President opens the conference, EC Director General calls for stringent new protection – and restoration across Europe

Participants were honoured by a warm welcome from Her Excellency President Zuzana Caputova of Slovakia, who provided patronage for Wild Europe’s wilderness and old growth forest conference on 20th and 21st November.

Herself a winner of the coveted Goldman Prize for environmental achievement, President Caputova has an understanding of conservation issues rare among national leaders.

President Caputova
President Caputova opens the conference (Photo: Stefan Voicu)
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Final stage for mapping wild France

Wild Europe signed an agreement on 31st January to fund the third and final stage of this initiative title “CARTNAT” to identify and map actual and potential wild and wilderness areas. 

The exercise is undertaken by IGN (Institut National de l’Information Géographique et Forestiere), Nantes University and the Wildland Research Institute at Leeds University

Phase 1 ending in October 2018 developed methodology appropriate to project objectives and geographic criteria.

Phase 2 ending in October 2019 mapped ten test sites, of which seven contain significant wild or even prospective wilderness areas. The remainder provided a context of different land uses.

Phase 3, now starting, will extend the exercise to remaining areas across FranceAlong with its partners IUCN France and WWF France, Wild Europe has provided funding for all three stages.

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Approval for IUCN Motion on old growth forest

IUCN MarseillesA Motion calling for improved policy and funding support for old growth/primary forest is now proceeding.

Based on the Protection Strategy from Wild Europe’s 2017 Brussels conference and associated consultations, the Motion for this Resolution was developed by Daniel Vallauri of WWF France. It is currently being discussed online: (https://www.iucncongress2020.org/motion/125).

The Motion will be proposed for adoption online in late March (online), or in June during the IUCN Congress in Marseilles. The resulting Resolution will provide a significant platform at the 2020 IUCN Marseille Congress for promoting stringent protection and extensive restoration across Europe.

Action: Please comment online, support – and forward this information to your networks

India welcomes you to the World’s premier wilderness gathering

WILD 11, the World Wilderness Congress, will be held in the city of Jaipur, in the Rajasthan province of North West India from 19th to 26th March.

In what has become the premier global wilderness gathering, some 1500 participants from 60 countries are expected.

Birla Auditorium
The magnificent Birla Auditorium at the Convention Centre, opened in 1963 by Pandit Nehru

Based at the Birla Convention Centre, the Congress provides an opportunity to shape policies and actions on wilderness, in time to influence ambitious wild nature targets at the seminal UN CBD Kunming Congress in October 2020. Surrounding this focus is a vibrant array of talks, specialist symposia, workshops, youth programmes, training sessions, exhibits and expeditions.

Jaipur and its surrounding province, with its palaces and forts, lush tiger forests of Ranthambore and arid Thar Desert, is steeped in history of the British Raj and Maratha and Moghul empires before it – stretching back thousands of years to the most ancient Indus civilizations.

See https://wild11.org/the-congress/#2020 for WILD 11 objectives, programme detail and ancillary activities.

President Macron announces 10% natural habitat vision for France

President Macron has pledged commitment to protect 10% of France’s land and sea area “in full naturalness” (en plein naturalité). 

He announced this objective in a speech at the Elysée Palace on 4thMay, as part of a wide-ranging vision to combat climate change and restore biodiversity that would see protected areas expanded to cover 30% of the nation’s territory.

President Macron announces the 10% natural habitat vision for France in the Elysee palace
A visionary President for wild nature in France (source: Elysee.fr)

Consultation will now occur to establish more specific objectives and plan their implementation. France’s IUCN Wilderness Group, where Wild Europe is represented and currently funding a mapping exercise, has discussed our definition of wilderness (espace à haute naturalité) which is used in the EC’s Management Guidelines for the Natura 2000 Network and the EC Wilderness Register. Together with the wild area (zone sauvage) definition it has potential to play a key part in this vision. In addition to environmental value, these definitionsproffer the practical potential of economic and social benefits for local communities and landholders.

President Macron’s vision, suitably focused on wild nature, is a powerful step alongside Germany, where the Federal government has designated 2% of the country to be natural wilderness: encompassing 5% of all forests and 10% of state forests. Wild Europe’s wilderness definition is cited by the German Federal Agency as compatible with the mission statement for the areas involved (Wild Europe’s wilderness definition in French).

Germany unveils large Wilderness Fund

The Federal Environment Ministry announced a massive boost for wilderness on 9thJuly 2019 – a 10 million euro per year “Wildnis in Deutschland” initiative aimed at stopping loss of species and habitats. 

This is intended to catalyse the 2% national target for wilderness, announced in 2007, of which 0.6% has so far been achieved. The mission statement for each area is cited as compatible with the Wild Europe definition in the BfN Federal Agency wilderness criteria.

More landscape like this, please…
(CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org)

The funding will be used by conservation organisations to purchase land and land use rights, with particular focus on securing large integrated wilderness landscapes. 

A clear precedent for France, and elsewhere in Europe

This represents spectacular success for a campaign by a network of German NGOs, coordinated by Manuel Schweiger of Frankfurt Zoological Society. 

With President Macron of France recently outlining what could become even more extensive 10% national targets for areas “in full naturalness”, there is huge encouragement and a clear precedent for wilderness advocates in France and elsewhere to follow.

Rewilding in Britain – significant opportunities emerging

One of the few positive aspects of Brexit is the opportunity it offers for a wholesale rethink on using nature-based solutions to address climate change.

Brexit Britain to be greener?
(Wikimedia Commons)

In its consultation document “rewilding and climate breakdown” (May 2019), the Rewilding Britain initiative where Wild Europe has trustee representation lays out a costed proposal for massive restoration of natural habitats and processes as a key route to mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Promoted under the “public payments for public goods” agenda, this advocates spending 2.1 billion euro per year – 30% of the current 6.6 billion UK CAP budget – to restore over 6 million hectares including woodland, peatland, species rich grassland and salt marsh. This would sequester some 47 million tons of CO2 annually, more than 10% of the UK’s emissions. The report cites carbon taxes as a source of funding, although there is also potential related to flood alleviation – and of course the CAP budget itself.

Massive public support

These proposals are paralleled by a public petition that has now secured over 100,000 signatures, and will trigger a debate in the Westminster Parliament. 

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