My passion for wildlife was stimulated in my teenage years, mainly thanks to my Mum (a biology teacher) who made me look at the world differently and being inspired by writers such as Paul Colinvaux. This early interest developed into biological research in my 20s, when I did practical conservation work in places such as the Comores and Mongolia.
Today, any free time I have I spend pottering around the flatlands of East Anglia or escaping to our hut on the Northumberland coast looking for wildlife and castles with my wife and children.
I studied Biological Sciences at Oxford and Conservation at UCL, and worked at Wildlife and Countryside Link before spending five years as Conservation Director at Plantlife.
I joined the RSPB as Head of Government Affairs in 2004, became Head of Sustainable Development in 2006, before becoming Conservation Director in 2011.
This morning, MEPs in the European Parliament adopted (with an overwhelming majority) a report that reinforces the importance of the EU Nature Directives in halting biodiversity loss.
Today’s news follows a series of announcements which suggest that any political appetite to weaken the directives has reduced but alas not entirely disappeared.
© European Union 2015 - European Parliament
In October last year, the European Commission acknowledged that the EU’s 2020 biodiversity targets would be missed unless “implementation [of the EU Nature Directives] and enforcement efforts become considerably bolder and more ambitious”.
This message echoed that sent by half a million people who, last summer, shared their views through the Fitness Check consultation regarding the Directives.
In November (see here), the draft Fitness Check report concluded that the Nature Directives are fit for purpose, and any problems with them are a consequence of poor implementation and enforcement. They make a ‘major contribution to the EU’s biodiversity target’, but complementary action – especially in key policy areas such as agriculture – is essential to halt the loss of biodiversity.
In December (see here), Environment Ministers from 28 Member States, including our own Minister, Rory Stewart, said they wanted to focus their efforts on improving implementation of the Directives to give us a chance of halting the loss of biodiversity.
We now have a situation where the evidence says the Directives are fit for purpose, where elected politicians in both the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament support them and where civil society and many businesses want the spotlight to move to implementation and effective reform of Common Agriculture Policy – seen as a driver of loss.
Yet, in a speech yesterday, Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella seemed reluctant to accept that this consensus view had emerged and suggested legal reform was still possible. Clearly, some vested interests are working very hard behind the scenes for EU nature protection to be weakened.
For now, can I take this opportunity to thank all of you that have support our campaign to date. While today’s vote is the latest example of the impact we have had, it is clear that the campaign to defend the laws that defend our nature has not yet been won.
Please do keep an eye on the Defend Nature pages of our website for further opportunities to get involved.
This very good news on this vital issue and congratulations to the RSPB and Birdlife International for all their work in making this very important progress. However it is very necessary to "stick with if". As Winston Churchill said " it is always in the last lap that races are won or lost"
This is very good news not just for wildlife but for Europe: overwhelming public pressure has actually had an effect on what many anti-Europeans would like to claim is an far from democratic influence. It is particularly interesting that it seems to have been the public reaction that has dragged the UK Government on side. It is also important, not just for this but for a wider conservation direction in the future, that a significant slice of the business community supported the Directives: it is most definitely not the people against business. But clearly this one hasn't gone away - we need to stick in there, and I hope that RSPB and the conservation sector will talk more and more (as you do in the latest Nature's Home) about the businesses that really are making a commitment to nature.