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This blog post is a repost from the Pangolin Specialist Group website, which can be found here: www.pangolinsg.org.
Today, Saturday 17th February 2018, is World Pangolin Day and the 6th birthday of the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group, also known as the Pangolin SG. World Pangolin Day provides a perfect opportunity to celebrate pangolins for the fascinating and intriguing creatures that they are, and to reflect on some of our key accomplishments these past six years.
Let us first celebrate pangolins! I became captivated by pangolins because they are the most unique and enchanting animals I could ever wish to see. Not only do they look prehistoric and like they belong in the Jurassic period (they have been likened to dinosaurs!) but the global conservation community knows very little about them and many mysteries about pangolins remain.
For instance, we are still learning how long they live in the wild, and we’ve only just discovered through recent research in the Central African Republic that the black-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla), thought to be fully nocturnal, is actually active diurnally (in the daytime). With so much still to learn about the animals, they epitomise the wonder of the natural world, and pangolin researchers today are entitled to feel like Darwin or Wallace as they seek to reveal so much about them that remains unknown.
Such knowledge is essential to informing conservation actions for pangolins – and they really need it! Based on best available knowledge, all pangolins are considered threatened with extinction on The IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM, where they are categorised as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable. Their imperilled status is due to over-exploitation from both poaching for consumption of the animals and their body parts (e.g., scales) locally and from trafficking of pangolins and their scales internationally, mainly to satisfy the unyielding demand of China and Vietnam’s luxury meat and traditional medicine markets.
There, pangolin meat is eaten as a luxury dish in high end urban restaurants and scales are used to treat a range of ailments from psoriasis to cancer. While pangolin trafficking has historically been confined to Asia, the most worrying trend in the last decade has been the emergence of intercontinental trafficking in African pangolin scales to Asia, which now takes place at a huge volume, to the tune of tens of tonnes (translating to tens of thousands of pangolins) per year, and now affects all eight pangolin species.
But there is cause for hope. There is an ever-strengthening conservation response to the trafficking crisis and the Pangolin SG has made important progress in our first six years. We now have over 100 members from 35 countries, and as the profile of pangolins grows we are responding to increasing interest from civil society, governments and NGOs. We have taken the best available knowledge and applied it to assessing the conservation status and extinction risk for pangolins on The IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM. Numerous large field conservation projects have launched which focus on pangolins, including Fondation Segré Pangolin Conservation Initiative I and II, among others.
In 2013, the Pangolin SG gathered experts from across the globe to develop the first ever global conservation action plan for pangolins to guide conservation investment, ‘Scaling Up Pangolin Conservation‘, and soon after contributed expertise to the First Pangolin Range States Meeting, co-hosted by the governments of Vietnam and the United States in 2015. Importantly, we continue to provide scientific and technical expertise to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The CITES Parties decided in 2016 with nearly universal agreement at their 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to afford pangolins the highest level of international protection by up-listing them to Appendix I of the Convention. This means that international trade in pangolins for primarily commercial purposes is now prohibited and the Pangolin SG is developing tools to help support its implementation.
In the coming years our important work will continue. We are once again assessing the status of the eight pangolin species for the The IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM, and will continue to do so periodically in order to make sure the best and most current information possible is available to governments and stakeholders. As the profile of pangolins has grown dramatically in recent years and with it an increase in support for pangolin conservation, the need for detailed regional and national conservation strategies is paramount.
Following IUCN’s best practice guidance on species conservation planning, the Pangolin SG will continue our work with partners to develop conservation strategies for the eight pangolin species and help ensure they are implemented. We met with experts and range state government representatives in 2017 to develop a regional strategy for the Sunda pangolin, and are supporting the development of national strategies for pangolins in Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines, and that’s just the beginning.
You can be a part of our work to celebrate and conserve pangolins today on World Pangolin Day and every day. Whether you are lucky enough to see a pangolin anytime soon, or are celebrating the species by building a snow pangolin, playing pangolin party games or having a bake sale to raise conservation funds, take time to celebrate these fascinating animals with us.
For more pangolin news, follow the group on social media @PangolinSG.
Today is World Wetlands Day, a day to celebrate our wonderful wetlands, the wildlife that thrives within them and the benefits that we as a society gain from them. Wetlands cover very little of the world’s surface, but are home to a disproportionately large number of species, including almost 45 per cent of the world’s fish species, over 80 per cent of turtles, and waterbirds who either live in wetlands permanently or use them as refuelling stops on their long migrations.
Wetlands are of vital importance to wildlife, and they are also critical for humanity. It’s hardly surprising that the majority of our towns and cities are located on the banks of wetlands; they provide us with water to drink, for sanitation, growing food and for industry and energy. They also provide society with other less appreciated benefits such as storing carbon dioxide, a food source, reducing storm surges, storing and spreading floodwater and safeguarding against drought.
However, our societal dependence on wetlands is also risking their very existence; 1/3 of freshwater species are threatened and it’s estimated that populations of freshwater species have shrunk by 81 per cent since the 1970s. This decline is the biggest observed across any ecosystem and provides strong indication that we are risking the environment upon which we all depend. The theme of this year’s World Wetland Day is ‘Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future’. The history of our society is intertwined with wetlands, and so is our future. Through the HSBC Water Programme, WWF has been working to restore and protect some of the world’s most important wetlands for over fifteen years. Above are some examples of our work which highlights the critical role wetlands play in our lives.
World Wetlands Day is Friday 2nd February 2018. This year’s theme is ‘wetlands for a sustainable urban future’. WWF is an official partner to World Wetlands Day, which is run by the Ramsar Convention (www.worldwetlandsday.org).
Five counties make up Kenya’s incredible coastline: Kwale, Kilifi, Mombasa, Lamu, and Tana River County. Sadly, what often comes to mind when thinking about Tana River County is hostile climatic conditions, hunger, conflict, insecurity, and human suffering. But spend time in Tana River County and you will be amazed by the opportunities that exist.
Tana River County takes its name from the River Tana, which is the longest river in Kenya and flows right through the County. The river is a lifeline to the Pokomo community, the major ethnic group in the County, and other neighbouring communities. People often say that the River Tana reminds them of the Nile in Egypt!
The landscape in Tana River County is a mosaic of riparian forests, dry woodlands and savannah habitats within which there are eight sites that are considered to be sacred by the Pokomo community. These sites are called: Kimbu, Lalafitu, Mkomani/Maramba, Nkanu, Baguo, Bubwayo, Banatiro wetland and Lemu wetland and have a cumulative area of about 12,000 ha. They hold great cultural and spiritual significance for the Pokomo community as they are believed to be the places where the spirits of their ancestors reside. Community members, particularly women, visit these sites to worship and pray.
The sacred sites are also home to a wealth of biodiversity including the Tana River Mangabey, which is only found in the lower Tana River region, and the red colobus monkey. The sites also form part of the Tana Delta Important Bird Area; an area identified using an internationally agreed set of criteria as being globally important for the conservation of bird populations. Incredibly, there are more than 200 species of bird found in the region!
In addition to respecting the sacred sites because of their cultural importance, the Pokomo community relies on the sites as a source of traditional medicine, honey, and wood for fuel and building. Governance systems based on tradition and customs, which have been passed through generations and are upheld by elders in the community, have helped to ensure sustainable use of these resources. Encouragingly, recent reforming of land law in Kenya has strengthened the recognition of and support for sacred natural sites and associated customary community self-governance systems.
Unfortunately, at the same time, external pressures on these sacred sites, and the ecosystems that they are situated in, are growing and eroding customary governance systems. Illegal logging, over-grazing, agricultural expansion and unplanned settlements, all exacerbated by the impacts of changes in climate, pose significant threats to the sacred sites and the people that depend on them.
We’re working closely with National Museums of Kenya, the Ndera Community Conservancy and the County Government of Tana River, to support the Pokomo community to revive and strengthen their customary governance systems, regenerate their network of sacred natural sites, and use the new Kenyan laws to legally secure their role in management of the sacred sites. We’ll also be calling for these sites to be nationally recognised for their importance as well as declared as ‘No-Go’ areas for economic development or other activities which could undermine their sacredness or community governance systems.
It included discussions around a number of key environmental issues, from climate change and water crises to the impact of our food systems on nature.
The WEF’s own global risks perception survey showed that people see climate change-related issues – such as extreme weather events and natural disasters – as amongst the most pressing problems facing our planet.
During the Forum, climate change featured in many discussions, from Bank of England Governor Mark Carney talking about the need for business to be more transparent on the risks they face from climate change, to Al Gore speaking on how extreme weather events are proving more devastating and expensive than ever before.
French President Emmanuel Macron promised to shut all coal-fired power stations in France by 2021, while Klaus Schwab, the WEF’s founder and executive chairman, highlighted the need for civil society, businesses and governments to work together to create solutions for this global challenge.
It’s encouraging that climate change remains a priority for most global leaders, even if the US President is yet to be convinced, but we need to set more ambitious targets and move faster to reduce our carbon emissions if we’re to keep climate change to manageable levels.
What we eat not only affects our own health, but also the environment. Food is at the heart of many environmental issues – it’s a significant contributor to climate change and is responsible for 60% of global wildlife loss.
Yet there are promising examples of companies coming together to halt the degradation of our natural world. Marc Engel, Chief Supply Chain Officer from Unilever, announced at Davos that 61 global companies – including Ahold Delhaize, McDonald’s, Tesco, Unilever and Walmart – have now signed up to the ‘Cerrado Manifesto’, a WWF-led pledge from companies and investors to take urgent actionto ensure their supply chains don’t contribute to deforestation. The Cerrado is a Brazilian savannah region just north of the Amazon and is home to five per cent of the world’s wildlife. Over half its land area has already been lost to make way for agriculture. But this pledge shows that change is possible. We hope this is the beginning of more businesses, investors and governments taking a long-term view and committing to ensure supply chains don’t damage the natural resources they rely on.
The UN has predicted a 40 per cent global shortage in water supply by 2030, and for the last six years the WEF has ranked water as one of the top global risks. With Cape Town now at risk of being the first major city to run out of water, millions of people are already starting to feel the impact of dwindling freshwater resources.
We’re continuing to highlight the importance of freshwater – for everything from economic growth and food security to culture and the value of ecosystem services – and have produced the Water Risk Filter to help businesses assess their water risk and provide guidance on how to respond.
Forward-thinking businesses are already considering their impact on our freshwater systems, and World Rowing has today pledged to ensure none of its activities have a negative impact on World Heritage sites.
President Trump addresses business and political leaders at the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland.
With environmental issues making up eight out of the top ten global risks this year, and President Trump stating that “America hopes for a future in which everyone can prosper” in his closing speech at the WEF, it is clear that governments, businesses and civil society are waking up to the crucial importance of environmental issues, and evaluating the risks climate change and other environmental factors will have on our societies.
But we all need to see greater ambition from world leaders to truly reverse the decline of our natural world. Investing in nature is both profitable and beneficial to societies and the environment, and the time for this is now.
2017 gave us plenty to talk about in the world of sustainable business. We expect 2018 to be no different, as increasing numbers of people, companies and governments wake up to the need for a green economy. Here are our predictions for the most important trends for business and the environment this year.
2018 should be an exciting year for clean energy development and growth. With climate change the top concern of millennials for three years running, there is a rapid global shift away from coal in particular, but also from other fossil fuels – towards electric vehicles, for instance. As battery storage technology improves and renewable energy costs continue to fall, it makes more and more sense for investors to back clean energy and for governments to continue to move away from fossil fuels. Solar energy, for example, is almost a quarter cheaper than it was in 2009, and offshore wind has almost halved in price over the last few years – both much cheaper than nuclear.
Global investment in renewables is set to increase exponentially, with Bloomberg’s New Energy Outlook estimating that they will account for almost three quarters of global energy investment between now and 2040. China, India, the United States, Japan and Germany are currently the biggest investors; UK offshore wind is the single biggest part of the world market for the technology. Here in the UK, coal will be phased out by 2025, and solar, onshore and offshore wind will all be cheaper than gas by then. Large-scale investment can still be challenging for developing countries, although this is changing with falling prices. Vietnam’s TTC Corp is set to start work on three large-scale solar projects in the first half of this year, setting a great example for other countries to follow. And India’s deployment of renewables is contributing towards their likely over-delivering on commitments under the Paris Agreement.
The rise of electric vehicles (EVs) is set to intensify this year. Despite £500 million funding for EVs and charge points set out in the UK Government’s Budget last November, the ban on the sale of diesel and petrol cars won’t come into effect until 2040, a whole decade later than countries such as India and Norway. China is making huge strides, making up more than half of global EV sales in Q3 2017. But where UK policy lacks ambition, corporate fleet owners and private buyers are sure to accelerate our transition to an all-electric future – 40% of people around the world who plan to buy a car within the next five years saying they are likely to buy all-electric.
Ahead of the electric vehicle conference set to take place in the UK this autumn, a strong EV strategy in March is vital for us to take advantage of the investment and job opportunities this new and rapidly growing industry presents, and maintain global leadership post-Brexit. And if we want to be able to demonstrate that we’re on track with our national emissions targets at COP24, the government needs to set more ambitious plans with detail on how they will be achieved, as well as increasing investment in renewable energy and technologies.
The plastic pollution crisis in our oceans was deservedly high on the political agenda at the end of last year. Tackling this enormous threat will require big changes across the corporate sector, not least in retail and consumer goods. Sky has taken the lead here, with their commitment to remove all single-use plastics from their products, operations and supply chain by 2020. The most agile and innovative companies will be capitalising on this opportunity to show they care. But we’ll see what regulations the Government has in mind, including a possible deposit return scheme for plastic bottles, when it publishes the outcome of its consultation.
This year we’re also expecting the UK Government to unveil agriculture and fisheries bills to replace the European legislation currently governing these areas until Brexit. Whatever your opinion of Brexit, these bills give the UK a chance to establish itself as a world leader in environmentally responsible legislation.
As the welcome, but fragile, recovery of North Sea cod has shown, nature can bounce back from the brink and offer sustainable business opportunities if the right action is taken with enough urgency. The long-term health of the British seafood industry depends on a fisheries bill with environmental sustainability at its heart.
As for the agriculture bill, this is a unique opportunity to make farming policy that better supports nature, people, our land and our livestock. The Government needs to set out an agriculture policy that prevents water pollution and ensures that public subsidies deliver benefits for society by rewarding farmers that conserve healthy soils, support abundant wildlife and reduce flood risk. It should also be future-proof, enabling our agricultural sector to cope with the changes and challenges that lie ahead, as well as being able to capitalise on future opportunities.
Taking place in April in London and Windsor, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) will see all 52 country leaders unite to address global challenges. The meeting comes at an intriguing time and could have big implications for UK businesses. With the UK poised to leave the EU, this a chance for to embrace the UN Sustainable Development Goals and embed fresh green thinking in a set of progressive new deals that put sustainable development at the centre of international trade.
Our wish for 2018
Businesses and society can’t flourish in a world of climate change, pollution and extinction. It’s vital for us to transition quickly and efficiently to a green economy. If the business world was to make a collective new year’s resolution, we’d want it to be a commitment to stop investing in what seems most profitable in the short term, and to consider its true impact on the environment, so that we can all benefit from a better and more prosperous future.
2017 saw great progress being made in corporate water stewardship, with a growing number of companies making public commitments to tackle water risk across their supply chains. But what can we hope for in 2018 to speed up progress and see significant action at scale?
Collective action and governance are core to water stewardship, but all too often they are seen as a long term aim rather than an active part of a strategy. I really hope that this year, we’ll see businesses coming together through initiatives like WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment 2025 to implement water stewardship at scale globally, and with the critical mass of businesses involved by taking action collectively, we’ll be able to prove its value in the long term and encourage other sectors to follow suit. We hope this will be a great example of sector-wide collaboration, moving beyond one or a few companies working together, to tackle water risks through stewardship both in the UK and in global water risk hotspots.
Through our partnership with M&S in late 2016 we were looking to scale up water stewardship across the UK food and drink sector, and at the same time, WRAP, who lead the Courtauld Commitment 2025, were developing the water target for Courtauld signatories. We agreed to come together to develop a target that will see UK food and drink companies collectively taking action on water risk throughout their supply chains in the UK and overseas. There’s also a separate target on increasing water efficiency in operations under Courtauld.
To get started, we needed to identify areas of high water risk that are of collective interest to Courtauld signatories, so we ran a survey to identify potential locations of interest. We helped businesses to use the Water Risk Filter to identify water risk hot spots.
High Resolution Water Risk Filter Map of South Africa, one of the project locations identified through the survey. A score of 1 indicates the lowest risk and 5 indicates highest risk.
We used this information to identify potential project locations. We are planning to run the first set of projects in Kenya, Spain and South Africa, as well as in a number of catchments in the UK.
In spring 2017, the Rivers Trust launched the new Water Stewardship Service to help UK businesses work with their local Catchment Based Approach Groups (CaBAs) to collectively implement water stewardship at a local level in the UK. So, the Rivers Trust will be leading work on the ground in the UK under Courtauld 2025 and at WWF we’ll be supporting work internationally, where we have local offices. You can read more about the water stewardship service in Alex Adam’s blog.
So why is this approach so exciting?
The Courtauld Commitment 2025 is an industry-wide voluntary agreement for the UK’s food and drink sector – and beyond, including all major supermarkets, trade bodies, manufacturers and significant companies within the hospitality and food sector, so it represents a great opportunity to implement water stewardship across a whole sector in the UK. Courtauld 2025 brings with it a whole host of benefits to business by combining their influence, experience and resources to maximise the positive impacts and reach of the project.
The plan for 2018
We’re kicking off the year by conducting some more detailed scoping in project locations and convening groups of companies with interests in these areas. In the spring, WRAP will officially launch the Courtauld Commitment 2025 water target and by the summer we expect to see several collaborative projects, both in the UK and internationally, up and running. All of the projects will include location specific policy asks for businesses to promote and support, informed by actions on the ground in different catchments.
We know that water stewardship may be new to many Courtauld 2025 signatories, so we’re planning to keep the projects open for new members to join after the work is up and running. We’re also keen for businesses who may not be Courtauld 2025 signatories, including companies based outside the UK, to get involved, so if you source from any of the above locations and would be interested in finding out more, please do get in touch email@example.com
Through the recent BBC Big Cats series we’ve been able to immerse ourselves in the lives of the world’s feisty felids – from the most elusive to the most deadly. With the launch of new technology systems which have allowed us to delve into the intricate depths of these animals’ lives, we were curious to find out more about the making of the BBC’s first series to focus solely on one group of animals.
Speaking to series producer, Gavin Boyland, we discovered the challenges behind creating the series, as well as why now is a crucial time to spread the word about big cat conservation.
A few years back the Natural History Unit did a series on the shark family, and this approach, of doing an in depth, definitive series on one group of animals seemed to work well. It gave us the opportunity to really explore the diversity and character of a complete animal family. All we needed was a charismatic, much loved and perhaps a little misunderstood group of animals. What better subject matter than the cats? New filming technologies, and a surge in cat research, enabled us to document the cats in more detail than ever before.
What was the most challenging or surprising part of making it?
The natural behaviour and temperament of cats was always going to be our biggest challenge. These are shy, illusive, cryptic animals, usually solitary, often nocturnal, and always unpredictable. There’s a good reason why the BBC had never tried to do a whole series on the cats before. Simply finding them would prove difficult, never mind filming amazing captivating behaviour our audiences have grown to love. Patience, perseverance and a little luck made it possible in the end.
Although it may sound like a cliché, making a series like this comes back to the three founding principles of the BBC – to inform, educate and entertain. When a series is scheduled for primetime, on our flagship channel BBC One (something that is decided when the show is commissioned) entertainment is a hugely important part of this.
We want our audience to be bowled over by the images and captivated by the story telling. We think the factual side of the show is hugely important, and we’re always checking and double checking all of the content as we want our audiences to learn about the cats whilst also being entertained by them. But also, in this day and age when so much of the natural world is threaten by our activities, it’s only right that we’re frank and honest about it. It’s important that in the third episode we deal with the threats facing cats and their conservation, as this now becoming more common in natural history documentaries.
What did you learn about the challenges facing cat species?
Cats face so many different challenges, but there’s one factor in particular that seemed to come up again and again, and that’s space. It seemed to me that although there are still issues, cats are well protected. When given the right conditions, they breed well and can be very successful. What they really need is a space that’s safe, and lots of it. This idea is illustrated best by the tigers in India, all the reserves are at their carrying capacity, the tigers are breeding well but there’s simply no room for them to expand into.
The biggest thing I’ve learnt is the incredible effort and passion that already goes into protecting cats. But there’s still so much to do. I hope with a series like this we can help raise a broad awareness. I hope we inspire people of go and see cats for themselves in their natural habitat. Making cats economically valuable and seeing profits shared with local communities is so important.
And finally, what is your favourite cat species and why (and has your favourite changed since producing the series)?
Having filmed, and featured, so many of the cats many have stood out. The adorable rusty spotted, the tenacious black-footed, the weird but certainly wonderful Pallas’s cat, the grace and elegance of the cheetah, the majesty and power of the tiger. But my favourite would have to be the Iberian lynx, they are, quite simply, beautiful animals, and full of character. The fact that they live in mainland Europe, amongst ancient Mediterranean oak or cork forest, adds a certain romance to the species. Their story is one of triumph against adversary. The rarest cat in the world, now, due to the incredible dedication and commitment of all those involved, is on the increase in the wild. We were incredibly privileged to be asked to film the release of two lynx, and for me it’s one of the most uplifting and hopeful moments in the whole series.
Did you tune in to BBC One last night to see the first episode of Big Cats? If not, you missed out! This new TV documentary highlights how awesome wild cats are but did you know that many are in trouble? Nearly half of all wild cat species are threatened with extinction. Here’s how WWF’s helping to reverse this trend.
I don’t know about you but I absolutely relish watching BBC nature documentaries. From Blue Planet to The Private Life of Plants, I grew up on these TV shows and they played a part in me choosing to become a conservationist. Yesterday’s first episode of Big Cats proved to be another fantastic cinematographic hit, with beautiful scenes of the many diverse and beautiful Felidae species such as the rusty-spotted cat and margay.
At WWF we are passionate about wild cat conservation. Here’s some of the ways we’re helping secure their populations and precious habitats for future generations to come.
African lions may be one of the most charismatic and well-known animals on the planet, but their populations are in crisis. A century ago, there could have been as many as 200,000 lions roaming across Africa. Today, possibly as few as 20,000 now remain. Lions have disappeared from 90% of their historical range and face growing pressure from habitat loss and degradation, loss of their prey, and increasing conflict with people as land and prey become scarce.
Jenny Cousins, Programme Manager for East Africa, explains how we’re helping to reduce the threats to lion populations:
“In Kenya, we are working with partners to develop a national lion strategy and set up monitoring work to find out how many lions are in the country. By the Maasai Mara National Reserve, we are working with local communities to safeguard important wildlife habitat surrounding the park via community-led conservancies. With the Mara Lion Project, we are working to reduce predation of people’s livestock by lions and support coexistence with these big cats.”
One of the most pressing threats to tigers today is the illegal wildlife trade. Tigers are desired for their skin, claws, teeth, meat and bones to be used in traditional Asian medicines and for trinkets. We’re equipping rangers with better tools to help reduce poaching, such as training them in SMART, which is a monitoring system to improve ranger patrols. We’re also securing tiger habitats of today and tomorrow by mapping their presence and where they could move to in the future. And we’re ensuring that tigers can move from one protected area to another through the use of natural corridors.
Concerted conservation efforts by tiger range country governments, conservation organizations, and local communities are proving successful, and for the first time in a century, there could be good news for tigers. Nine of the thirteen tiger landscapes now have stable or increasing tiger populations. And, two countries are now competing to be the first nation to double their tiger population: Bhutan and Nepal.
John Barker, Head of the China and India Unit, says:
“By conserving some of the world’s richest ecosystems we are saving so much more. Not just in terms of the biodiversity but also the benefits and services that these important habitats provide to people and nature.“
Most wildlife populations are threatened because of human activity. That’s why it is absolutely essential to engage people in any conservation intervention. In jaguar habitats, we’re working with locals to improve their livelihoods and secure land tenure so that they can protect the Amazon. This creates a win-win for people and biodiversity.
There could be as few as 4,000-6,500 snow leopards living in the wild today and up to a half of the global population is found in China. But less than 14% of snow leopard habitat has been researched or is covered by conservation work. And more than a quarter of land in seven of the 12 countries where snow leopards are found is used as pasture for livestock. This brings snow leopards into conflict with local farmers.
We have collaboratively set up insurance schemes to help offset the costs that farmers experience from livestock being killed by snow leopards. This is helping to improve tolerance to these mountain cats so farmers are less likely to retaliate.
How you can help
One way to help ensure there will be big cats for future generations to come is to make sure they have a place to call home. You can help here by choosing responsible wildlife tourism safaris that provide sustainable funding for big cat habitat. Also why not head over to our Adoptions page to help us continue our big cat conservation work?
At last the government has published its long-awaited 25 Year Environment Plan, its long-term vision for how we can be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state. All businesses depend on nature, so what does it mean for them? Here’s our pick of the key commitments – and gaps – in the plan, along with viewpoints from some of our friends in the private sector.
In a sign of how seriously the government is taking the environment, it was the Prime Minster herself who launched the plan. It’s ambitious in parts and the top-line narrative is strong, reflecting the change in pace and ambition at Defra since Michael Gove arrived as Environment Secretary.
The commitment to natural capital thinking is significant, and the focus on recovering nature is welcome, as is the incredibly important commitment to address the UK’s international footprint. But there are also omissions.
The view from the BoardSteve Robertson, Chief Executive Officer at Thames Water says:
“At board level, the long-term view offered by the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan is incredibly valuable. It gives us the certainty to invest in a network that will protect our vital natural capital as well as provide the level of service our customers rightly expect. By incorporating a fully integrated natural capital approach we can plan and make decisions based on detailed cost-benefit analysis that will provide true value to society and the environment, as well as ensuring the long-term investment needed to keep our water pipes and sewers flowing.
“This plan also creates the space for the really big decisions – decisions that require a social discourse – to be made that are rightly beyond the remit of any individual company. I would have liked to have seen more examples of the types of legislation that have the capacity to change social norms, such as the plastic bag charge or seatbelt laws, as this is undoubtedly the next step in getting a real grip on improving environmental health.”
A new Green Business Council
The government says it will establish a new Green Business Council, something NGOs and business alike have been calling for. It offers the opportunity for the government to work with business to discover, define and address natural capital risks down their supply chains.
The likes of HSBC, Aldersgate Group and Bank of England are currently members of the Green Finance Taskforce and these platforms offer an invaluable, two-way exchange of solutions and knowledge. The new council will have many challenges to address, and this is a clear signal that the government wants to work with the private sector to develop and deliver environmental improvement for the next 25 years.
The Plan also talks of establishing an international global resource initiative in 2018 to work with businesses, NGOs, producer countries and intermediary countries to identify actions across supply chains that will improve the sustainability of products and reduce deforestation overseas. This is a welcome move as we don’t want action at home to unwittingly generate more environmental damage overseas.
Overall we would like to have seen a much stronger commitment to regulatory and market interventions.
Nick Molho, executive director of the Aldersgate Group says…
“In order for the vision behind the plan to translate into concrete investments in the natural environment, the government will need to set clear, measurable objectives for improvements in different parts of our natural environment and will need to consider targeted market interventions to support private investment.
“This may, for example, include setting up one or more funds in complex or novel natural capital projects, introducing regulations that incentivise investment in restoring specific parts of the natural environment (for example peatland) and updating its public procurement policy to favour businesses that can demonstrate a clear resource efficient approach in the way they deliver services and goods to government.”
Environmental net-gain is a bonus
The intention to put the environment at the heart of planning and development is crucial for social and biodiversity improvements. With the onus being on the planning authorities, we hope this will create locally-led restoration of nature. We welcome the commitment to strengthen net environmental gain requirements, but wait to see how strong these requirements will actually be and what ‘necessary’ exemptions will entail.
Steve Smith, Technical Director at Aecom says…
“The principle of environmental net-gain will allow developers and industry to take the lead on environmental restoration. This is a significant step in ensuring that planning for housing and infrastructure, and the prevention and control of pollution not only positions this plan to prevent biodiversity losses but it will allow for the restoration of nature that is critically needed to improve our environmental health.”
Protecting our oceans
The commitments aimed at tackling plastic waste have been grabbing the headlines – and rightly so, with eight million tonnes of it dumped in the ocean every year causing untold damage to animals and ecosystems. They are a step in the right direction and businesses that depend on healthy seas will welcome them. But these measures must be the start of a wider approach to ending plastic pollution across our economy.
Businesses will also welcome the reaffirmed commitment to delivering ‘good environmental status’ and the recognition of the importance of the UK Marine Strategy to coordinate activities and deliver conservation objectives. This is supported by the positive proposal to integrate fisheries into marine planning and we look forward to seeing a Fisheries Bill that can deliver the sustainable fisheries management set out in the plan. And of course we can all get behind the Sustainable Development Goal wording to significantly reduce marine plastics but this does need to have meaningful targets and actions. It is also a good step to see a commitment to more MPAs, but we need greater ambition for them to be well managed.
Clean and plentiful water
Water supply companies and many other business sectors rely on healthy rivers and wetlands. Overall, this plan is a step in the right direction, but to transform the health of the freshwater environment further work is needed to develop and strengthen the ambitions and actions. In particular, the ambition to improve three quarters of waters to be close to their natural state “as soon as is practicable” is ambiguous and could very well slip without a robust definition.
It’s good to see an expectation for companies to produce wastewater management plans, and the new farming rules for water. However, evidence suggests that these rules will only tackle a fraction of agricultural pollution. This is an issue for water companies who must pay to clean up water sources polluted by farms. The new environmental land management scheme must therefore be ambitious, driving investment in land practices that no longer damage rivers, and underpinned by strong regulatory enforcement.
The plans to address unsustainable abstraction and modernise the abstraction system are welcome, but statutory environmental limits are needed to give companies certainty to drive water efficiency and sharing, and ensure rivers remain flowing.
Now to turn ambition into reality
This plan is an important first step, but it will need to be backed-up by significant investment, and we would like to have seen an indication of where these funds will come from.
Karen Ellis, Interim Director of Science and Policy at WWF says…
“We all depend on nature, from the UK and overseas, and its degradation is causing misery due to ill-health, flooding and pollution, and costing the UK millions of pounds. The indication of Natural Capital financing is good. However, we don’t know the level of investment that is needed to deliver this plan and there is also little clarity on what public money will be available. The Plan talks of leveraging private finance for investment in nature, but will need to put in place appropriate incentives to make this happen at the scale needed.”
The plan could be a turning point for the UK’s relationship with the environment, where we begin to restore nature rather than destroy it. What remains to be seen is how it will be delivered on the ground. How will the ideas – of which there are many – be implemented and integrated? How are social and environmental factors considered together in order to drive sustainable economic growth?
The 25 Year Environment Plan is good on paper, and we all look forward to working with the government going forward, to help ensure that the next generation is handed an environment in a far better state then the one we see today.
More details on WWFs reaction to the 25 Year Environment Plan can be found here
2017 has been an interesting year for sustainable business, with commitments from government and businesses to help create a better future for people and planet. Here are our top five positive news moments.
Climate march, New York.
(Some) Americans are still in
In the wake of President Trump’s announcement to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement back in June, a growing coalition of non-state actors in the United States have come together to demonstrate that they’re serious about climate action and meeting international climate goals. The ‘We Are Still In’ movement comprises local government, businesses, universities, faith groups and environmental activists, and represents a sizeable $6.2 trillion of the US economy.
In the absence of leadership from national government, it’s both reassuring and inspiring to see this group taking matters into their own hands. If the United States does leave the agreement, it will be the only country in the world outside of it, as Nicaragua and Syria both signed this year.
Coal-fired power station near Pontefract in Yorkshire, UK.
Cleaning up our act
Burning fossil fuels for power, heat and transport is the biggest source of CO2 emissions globally, making it vital for us to transition to clean energy as quickly as possible.
But more needs to be done to tackle climate change. Although the Clean Growth Strategy demonstrated government recognition of the importance of clean energy, it lacked detail on how we’d seize – and, indeed, fund – the opportunities presented by the clean energy sector.
The corporate sector seems ready to embrace change, including Tesco’s announcement that it would switch to 100% renewable energy by the end of the year in the UK, and by 2030 worldwide. 118 companies, including British Telecom, Landsec and Marks & Spencer, have signed up to the RE100 – a global initiative uniting companies committed to 100% renewable energy. And if Britain’s biggest retailer, Tesco, can sign up to this, then it shows what’s possible in terms of big companies moving quickly to make the switch to renewable energy – challenging competitors to follow suit.
Saving the Cerrado
In September, over 50 NGOs from across Brazil and around the world released the Cerrado Manifesto – a call to companies and investors to take urgent action to protect the vulnerable Brazilian Cerrado, a savannah region rich in species just north of the Amazon.
Due to conversion for agriculture, the Cerrado has lost half its land area, and has suffered greater deforestation rates than the Amazon in the past decade. Not only is the region home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity – including unique species such as the giant anteater, maned wolf, and the jaguar – it’s also an important carbon store, essential for ensuring agricultural productivity in Brazil.
In response to the manifesto, 23 of the world’s largest food companies pledged to protect the Cerrado by making sure that their soy and beef supply chains do not contribute to deforestation or the conversion of natural vegetation in the region.
These global companies, which include Unilever, Walmart, Marks & Spencer, McDonald’s and Nando’s, have tremendous influence and buying power, and it was great to see them sending a strong market signal to the whole industry that the Cerrado must be protected. Going forward, we must see collaboration from all stakeholders, and the pledge of support for the manifesto is a good first step towards that.
Quotation board displaying financial market data.
Full disclosure on climate risks
The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) released its final recommendations in June to help facilitate the mainstreaming of climate-related corporate reporting.
One hundred businesses, including major banks, insurers and investors, publicly committed to support these recommendations in June, showing that both businesses and institutional investors are starting to consider the risks posed by climate change more seriously.
The TCFD recommendations are welcome; particularly those asking companies to publish scenario analysis of climate related risks and opportunities alongside financial accounts. To be truly effective though, the TCFD’s voluntary recommendations need widespread adoption, and regulators need to get involved.
Plastic bag on coral in the Indo-Pacific Ocean.
War declared on ocean plastics
Over the past two months, The BBC’s landmark Blue Planet 2 series has been raising awareness of how plastic is suffocating our seas and marine wildlife. Who could forget the tragic sight of a wandering albatross chick whose stomach was completely contaminated with plastic?
With more plastic in our oceans than fish predicted by 2050 if we continue with business as usual, the United Nations have established a resolution to eliminate plastic in the sea. 193 countries, including the UK, have already signed.
Last month, the UK Government issued a ‘call for evidence’ on how a single-use plastic tax could help tackle this growing global issue as part of its budget announcement. The Scottish Government has announced plans to create a deposit return scheme for bottles and cans, with Wales set to follow suit. This action is to be welcomed, but must be ambitious in scope and scale for the UK Government to achieve its goal of leaving the environment in a better state.
2017 saw some promising commitments from the corporate sector, such as Sky promising to remove single-use plastics from its products, supply chains and operations by 2020. Co-op and Iceland have also expressed support for a bottle deposit scheme, showing that companies are becoming more aware of the need to integrate sustainability into their core business models not just to protect our planet, but to ensure their own long-term prosperity.
Want to know what 2018 has in store for business and the environment? Look out for our blog in the New Year.