Humans 'must try harder' to protect nature

| 1st October 2018
Tory MP calls for billions to be spent protecting and restoring nature.

If we need a hundred units of action we’re probably seeing two or three units at the moment.

The world is taking less than three percent of the action needed to stop the global extinction crisis, Zac Goldsmith MP said today.

The former editor of The Ecologist was speaking ahead of a Seahorse Environmental Communications fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham today. 

“If we need a hundred units of action we’re probably seeing two or three units at the moment. But as it happens a big chunk of those two or three units are emanating from the United Kingdom,” he said.

Nature for humans

However, Mr Goldsmith said Britain is lagging behind in the amount the country spends on biodiversity. The Government should allocate part of Britain’s foreign aid budget to protecting global nature, he argued. 

“The easiest and most effective tool at our disposal in this country is our aid budget - £14.5 billion and growing every year. We need to see a significant chunk of that money spent on restoring, repairing and protecting ecosystems and nature.”

The MP was speaking alongside Joanna Elliott, the senior director of conservation partnerships at Fauna & Flora International. “There is enough space out there for animals and people to coexist. So it must be nature for humans and humans for nature,” she said.

Peter Hall, director of International Rhino Foundation and a Conservative party donor, argued Brexit represents a “wonderful” opportunity to boost investment in global nature.

Supporting communities

“Britain sends £1.5 billion to the European Union as part of its Official Development Assistance spend. Let’s get that £1.5 billion and apply it to nature,” he added.

A member of the audience at the fringe event representing Oxfam reminded the delegates that the aid budget was essential in supporting life saving disaster work, and also supporting communities suffering from conflict, corruption and dire poverty.

Tony Juniper, the environmental campaigner Tweeted after the event: “Excellent fringe meeting hosted by @ZacGoldsmith on UK environmental leadership @wwf_uk’s @MBarrettwwfuk sets out three parts to leading: 1. Restore our own wildlife 2. Cut our global footprint 3. Use our aid programme to achieve environment goals at same time as cutting poverty.”

According to the Fullfact charity: "About 15 percent [of the aid budget] goes as humanitarian aid, or crisis relief, with the rest focused on strategic or long-term goals.

The side adds that "36 percent of the money goes via multilateral organisations, like the United Nations. The other 64 percent goes to programmes in specific countries as bilateral aid.

"The five biggest recipients of bilateral aid are Pakistan, Syria, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Afghanistan. When it comes to continents, significantly more gets spent in Africa (51 percent) and Asia (42 percent) than anywhere else."

This Author

Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist, founder of Request Initiative and co-author of Impact of Market Forces on Addictive Substances and Behaviours: The web of influence of addictive industries (Oxford University Press)He tweets at @EcoMontague.

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