Conventions and Policies: key achievements 2006 - 2011
Conventions and Policies tracks the major biodiversity multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and protocols, identifying initiatives relevant to RBG Kew and our partners, briefing RBG Kew staff, advising government and partners in the UK and overseas and helping build capacity to implement these agreements.
Over this period the team made a significant contribution to the UK and European Union (EU) positions and briefings at three meetings of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and two meetings of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) CoP.
At the CITES CoP, members of the Team chaired working groups and negotiated with third party countries on behalf of the 27 member states of the European Union, in addition to leading on the preparation of a range of formal speaking notes for the EU Presidency, and attending CoP preparatory meetings of the Working Group of the Council of EU Environment Ministers. In addition, briefings were prepared for some 60 EU meetings and over 30 technical meetings relating to CBD and CITES. Team members were part of UK delegations to over 30 UN and EU meetings, leading four of these delegations and chairing two working groups of the CITES Plants Committee at each of its meetings.
A formal agreement (Nagoya Protocol) on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) was agreed at CBD CoP10 in October 2010, the product of some ten years of negotiations in which the Conventions Team advised the UK government and EU Presidencies, worked with institutional and project partners and the botanic garden and research communities, seeking an agreement that would facilitate collaborative scientific research and meet aspirations of RBG Kew’s in-country partners. During this period RBG Kew also made a significant contribution to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) targets and contributed to development of its refreshed targets at CBD CoP10; RBG Kew (the Team) represented the UK during negotiations and at the first GSPC meeting following CoP10. A report of GSPC implementation at RBG Kew was also produced. Over the period the Team has also participated in the coordination mechanism of the Global Taxonomy Initiative of the CBD and the Consortium of Scientific Partners of the CBD, providing training at various CBD meetings.
To facilitate RBG Kew and partner implementation of the key multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) relating to plant use, the staff guide on the RBG Kew intranet (KewNet) on collecting, use and supply of genetic resources was further developed and enhanced, peer reviewed staff guidelines on traditional knowledge were developed, and briefings were published on RBG Kew’s role in the GSPC. The team increased interaction with the botanic garden community in the UK and internationally to ensure that RBG Kew is working in harmony to establish and improve best practice in access and benefit sharing.
Work on climate change increased, and guides on climate change and the role of REDD+ were published for botanic gardens.
Two CITES orchid checklists were published during this period, as were two CITES User’s Guides including an innovative guide to trade in a major commercial timber CITES & Timber Ramin and two updates of the CD-ROM International Conventions for Botanists. Since the inception of our CBD and CITES publications, over 10,000 copies of guides, manuals, checklists, CD-ROMs and posters have been distributed, free of charge, to some 175 countries, with the majority of this material being produced in three languages (English, French and Spanish).
Twelve training sessions for staff were carried out over this period (ca. 250 staff trained), 676 students were trained on site through the higher education programme and international training was carried out in Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey and Thailand through modules in the Herbarium Techniques and Conservation Strategies courses (70 trained).
Specialist multilateral environmental agreement training was provided through the UK Botanic Garden Network, PlantNetwork and Plant Heritage and to Eden Project staff in Cornwall. Over 900 UK police, customs officers and wildlife inspectors have been trained on CITES implementation. CITES training courses were also carried out for the UK overseas territories (UKOTs) in Anguilla, Cayman Islands and Montserrat and international CITES training in the Czech Republic, Georgia, France, Poland and Spain (400 trained). RBG Kew was a major contributor to the UK Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW), being a key member of the PAW training, forensic and steering groups. A team member also sits on and advises the tasking and coordination group (TCG), the main enforcement body dealing with wildlife crime in the UK. As a result of this work RBG Kew was awarded the PAW Partner of the Year Award in 2009, presented by the UK Minister for the Natural and Marine Environment.
In respect of EU Directive 2004/24/EC on traditional herbal medicinal products, RBG Kew has helped build capacity to support enforcement and application through creation of a provenanced herbal medicine reference collection (containing over 4,000 Chinese herbs) and advised the British Pharmacopoeia Commission on herbal identification protocols via its expert advisory group on herbal and complementary medicines.
The UK Government was advised on some 20,000 applications to import, export or hold plant specimens covered by the European Union Wildlife Trade Regulations which implement CITES in the European Union.
Formal negotiated agreements with our international partners form the foundations for the Breathing Planet Programme and influence best practice in plant collecting, use and supply worldwide. Over the period we completed negotiations on 61 access and benefit sharing agreements (46 for the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership) in 37 countries and are currently working on more than 40 - including renewals and new partnerships.
The UK Government ratified the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food & Agriculture (ITPGRFA) in 2004, and a Team member sits on the UK Plant Genetic Resources (UKPGR) Group that advises Defra on these issues. RBG Kew has placed all relevant seed collections (currently 683) under the ITPGRFA. In 2011, RBG Kew started a new project “Adapting agriculture to climate change: Collecting, Protecting and Preparing Crop Wild Relatives” in collaboration with the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT). The project aims to collect, protect and prepare a portfolio of ITPGRFA Annex 1 plants with characteristics required for adapting the world’s most important food crops to climate change.
We have used the Conventions and Policies Team to deliver programmes audited in 2001 and 2006 external reviews of RBG Kew science and have been positively assessed in both reviews; the Team was commended in the Chalmer’s Review (2009) for relevance of our advisory roles on CITES and CBD to Defra’s work. However, to meet challenges of the burgeoning policy arena the Team’s role now needs to be re-assessed, and the remit, structure and reporting lines for the Conservation and Policy Team will be reviewed by the director of CLCE in association with the 2011 Science Review.
Conferences and workshops
Outside the examples given above and the major contribution of the group to meetings of Conferences of Parties, technical groups and European Union committees, the Team also carried out the CITES project “Improving implementation of CITES for Galanthus woronowii and Cyclamen coum from Georgia”. This was carried out with the CITES authorities of Georgia and Microsoft Research Cambridge, UK. It combined a range of skills to survey bulb populations, estimate potential harvest, establish a CITES non-detriment finding (NDF) process and develop a harvest and export quota that allowed Georgia to continue trading in wild snowdrops on the international market. Acceptance of the project’s recommendations by the CITES Standing Committee avoided a trade ban on Georgian snowdrop exports – their major wildlife trade. The working relationship built between RBG Kew and Georgia during this project continues to grow with the team advising on CITES implementation for plants on an on-going basis and assisting in planning and organization of the European regional CITES meetings and training workshops in Tbilisi in September 2011.
The International Expert Workshop on CITES non-detriment findings in Cancun, Mexico (2008) brought together 103 invited experts from 33 countries to review and provide guidance on the CITES non-detriment finding (NDF) process for the wide range of life forms of plants and animals covered by the Convention. The Team provided a member of the Steering Committee, the Academic Committee and both co-chaired and organized the Geophyte and Epiphyte Working Group, providing its report and guidelines for NDF and contributing to the suite of documents submitted to the CITES Technical Committees and Conference of the Parties. A multi-authored paper was also published in Biological Conservation.
The Team hosted and participated in the international drafting group for the second phase of the GSPC as part of celebrations for the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society; the Team organized and hosted, with the Royal Society, an international workshop on the science and the development of government policy post GSPC. The proceedings were published in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.
This Team contributes across all relevant MEA’s and associated protocols. During this period the work of the Team received written commendations, inter alia, from the UK Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the UK Minister for the Natural and Marine Environment, the Georgian Minister for Environment and the Presidency of the European Union.
Science Team Leader: Noel McGough
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