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FOCUS: Biodiversity rising up the agenda

FOCUS: Biodiversity rising up the agenda

Thursday 29 December 2022

FOCUS: Biodiversity rising up the agenda

Thursday 29 December 2022


Nearly 200 countries recently agreed to ratchet up protections and funding for biodiversity across the planet, with measurable targets set for 2030.

The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework was signed by an international set of delegates at a United Nations summit - COP15 - just before Christmas.

The most notable targets include safeguarding 30% of the world’s land and 30% of the oceans by the end of the decade. 

$30bn has also been pledged by developed post-industrial countries to support emerging and vulnerable nations in the same timeframe. 

Whilst Guernsey is not a signatory to the agreement, it has made its own moves to recognise the importance of biodiversity as it rises up the international agenda on a public and third-sector level.

But some local nature groups feel that whilst greater weight is being given to these issues, some government ambitions are flying in the face of its own best practice advice.

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Pictured: Building on greenfield sites has always been a contentious issue.

Shortly after the agreement was published, Guernsey’s Agriculture, Countryside and Land Management Services (ACLMS) wing of Environment & Infrastructure published detailed guidance on how households big and small can enhance biodiversity around their properties.

It mostly advises on the best practice for sowing wildflower meadows and where this might not be appropriate, assisting wildlife in gardens and how to introduce diversity into the built environment.

Tips include protecting what is already there, using predominantly native plants and hedging, eliminating synthetic gardening products, establishing even just a tiny pond, installing bat boxes and ‘living’ walls. 

It’s hoped the advice will assist people who seek to change the use of owned agricultural land into domestic curtilage. Since September 2021 the Development & Planning Authority has required applications of this nature to detail how biodiversity will be improved as a result.

Express understands there are concerns that these submissions, or acceptable submissions, have been missed from applications. 

Full guidance can be found HERE.

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Pictured: Deputies de Sausmarez (left) and Oliver share a good deal of political responsibility for nature and the built environment. 

Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez, President of the Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure, hopes more households can understand how to make a difference with this advice.

“Our natural environment is important not just for its own sake, but also for our wellbeing and our economy and our resilience against the impacts of climate change. The more people that make wildlife-friendly changes to their gardens, the bigger the positive difference to the island as a whole,” she said.

Deputy Victoria Oliver, President of the Development & Planning Authority, said “this new guidance will be particularly helpful for those who need to show evidence of improved biodiversity as part of a planning application. 

“As an Authority, we must continue to take environmental issues seriously. Having already included the Strategy for Nature as supplementary planning guidance, this is another good example of joint working between the DPA and E&I as we seek to preserve, protect and enhance what makes Guernsey a great place to live.”

Pictured: DPA member Sasha Kazantseva-Miller highlighted that applications to change fields from agricultural to domestic use will be viewed against the advice.

Many local nature charities work closely with States departments, but also go out on their own to enhance the island’s environment - sometimes because they have no choice.

A spokesperson for the Pollinator Project listed itself and “La Societe, Guernsey Conservation Volunteers and the Guernsey Biological Records Centre dolphin project, as well as lots of other people” who work hard to “maintain our terrestrial ecosystems” from a small pot of funds available.

“We estimate that a very small percentage of the Guernsey economy is spent on maintaining vital wildlife.  On one hand we wouldn't need to put much money into conservation if every land owner managed their land in a nature positive way, as our wildlife would be in a much better state. 

“But urbanisation and pesticides have caused big declines in wildlife numbers so far more funds are needed, as well as more environmentally-friendly policies (public and private). Imagine a thriving ecological sector in Guernsey, that provides decent wages for people who are making Guernsey a better place for wildlife, is world-leading and that even brings in people for ecotourism.”

Mike Brown, President of the National Trust of Guernsey, agreed: “Due to lack of manpower the Trust does not have as immediate an effect as the Guernsey Conservation Volunteers for example, but our policy of banning herbicides pesticides and fertilisers from our land will over the long term improve the biodiversity of the island”.

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Pictured: States advice on if a field should be sown with wildflower seeds.

These two organisations welcomed the principles and thrust of the COP15 agreement but Mr Brown said “announcements are not enough they need to be backed up by action”. 

“We have to be guided by the experts and the science and they tell us there is a link between climate change and biodiversity. However we are aware that not everybody accepts this view. 

“Having said that, there is no doubt that biodiversity is under threat and it is incumbent on all islanders and our government to do everything we can to protect and enhance biodiversity for the sake of our children and future generations.”

The Pollinator Project said it was encouraging to see thought and resources diverted towards large scale protections for nature.

“The highlights of the Montreal-Kunming agreement for us are the commitment to protect 30% of the world's land and oceans and reducing pesticides. You might ask why 30% rather than 100% - the 30% of land that they have pledged to protect has been identified by researchers as being irreplaceable if it is damaged and is also a vital carbon store.

“This includes areas like UK and Ireland peatlands, mangroves and vast Siberian forests. It would be great if the States of Guernsey followed suit.”

But both noted an unacceptable proposition for the island given its hopes and fears for the future - building on the valley field next to the Princess Elizabeth Hospital.

“The development of greenfield sites before the supply of brownfield sites is obviously a matter of concern, the proposed development of the field adjacent to the PEH is a case in point,” said Mr Brown.

“Any development that builds on a green field (like the proposal at the hospital site) gives us a heavy heart as urbanisation is part of the problems the island has right now. Or even any minor building works that use non-recyclable materials, chemicals that are harmful to wildlife or are replacing gardens for plastic grass is damaging our island too,” added the Pollinator Project.

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