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.
For the past two weeks, my colleagues Sarah Nelson and Georgina Chandler have been in Mexico attending the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. They have been working with our BirdLife International partners to encourage the nations of the world to intensify efforts to halt biodiversity loss. Here is their assessment of progress that has been made...
10 Highlights from COP 13
Now that the ceremonial gavel has come down of 38 decisions and 5,000 participants from over 196 countries have returned home, what can we say has been achieved? Here are our top ten highlights....
1. Securing an excellent decision on mainstreaming on environmental reform of the agricultural, fisheries and forestry sectors which:
2. Making progress on EBSAs (Ecologically and Biologically Significant Marine Areas) including the acceptance of 74 new EBSA’s which incorporate important seabird habitat mapped by the BirdLife International Marine Programme
3. Collaborating with other NGOs here (including WWF, Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy and the wider BirdLife family) and discussing future work in the lead up to 2020 and beyond. Uniting to deliver a common message has ensured that we have had maximum impact over the past few weeks. We look forward to working with our new “wider family” in the lead up to 2020. We closed today with a joint statement from us all saying we would be working together in the lead up to 2020 to hold countries to account for their commitments.
4. Raising awareness (and hopefully increasing ambition) through our work on the Aichi targets and maps which demonstrate how collective efforts are currently failing nature. The European Commission have indicated that they are keen to discuss how they can make progress under the Maltese Presidency, which is good news.
5. Being given the opportunity to lead a session at forest and agriculture day, where we could profile RSPB’s work on sustainable land use in West Africa, with an audience of land use experts from around the world.
6. Announcing UK Government support for the eradication of invasive mice on Gough Island and thereby protecting the endangered Tristan Albatross and Gough Bunting (the UK Government announced this in the final plenary and acknowledged the fact they were doing this in conjunction with the RSPB).
7. Profiling the Key Biodiversity Areas work and RSPB’s involvement in this new exciting initiative, as well as helping secure a decision recognising Key Biodiversity Areas as a priority for the establishment of protected areas.
8. Profiling the wonderful work of RSPB and Birdlife Partners in their protection of Gola and Harapan forests (shown above in Clare Kendall's image).
9. The UK delegation who, despite having a very small delegation compared to other EU countries, could constantly be seen running around, in the thick of the action and providing technical support to the Commission. Amongst all of that they still managed to find the time to fit in various stakeholder meetings with us and help us in achieving our objectives. As well as to announce joining two new initiatives – the Coalition of the willing on Pollinators and the Honolulu Challenge on Invasive Alien Species.
10. Meeting and working with the wonderful BirdLife family – BirdLife Partners from Mexico, India, Germany, US, Botswana, Uganda, the UK and the BirdLife Secretariat attended over the past two weeks. It was an absolute pleasure to work with them all.
There are those that say that these multi-lateral environmental agreements are just talking shops, that they have become overly bureaucratic and that the outcomes don’t mean anything and are not taken seriously by countries when they get back home. And if we look at the very disappointing results of our country map progress report, one could be forgiven for saying they may be right.
But imagine life without a CBD – a world where there was no overarching UN biodiversity convention, where countries from almost every nation of the world never met to discuss the main threats and issues facing biodiversity, and didn't set global targets to tackling these and then never discussed how to work collectively to meet these targets - the world’s biodiversity would be in an even worse state.
Those concerned that in an increasingly isolationist world, the CBD might collapse should remember that it is not the CBD process which is broken. The process works well (as we saw this past two weeks with a 38 excellent decisions agreed), it is the lack of political will to take these decisions and implement them back at home.
And that is why, in 2017, we need nations of the world to roll up their sleeves and fight to do whatever nature needs.
Good "stuff" Martin. Fully agree with your final two paragraphs.