Yesterday we attended a keynote speech given by the Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague at the Green Alliance’s annual debate on the environment. Mr Hague outlined why he believes climate change is one of the two most pressing foreign policy challenges facing the UK, and crucially, how a future Conservative government would seek to work with the international community to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Ahead of the Copenhagen conference this speech was timely. Mr Hague’s commitment to preventing deforestation and increasing the incentives for protecting the rainforest was particularly welcome. The Trust has its own criteria by which it will be judging the success of the final agreement at Copenhagen and we ask that the final communiqué adopts the following actions:
• Absolute protection for all old growth forests from destruction
• No net loss of all forest area, including plantations
• Sustainable management of existing forests
• International trade in unsustainably-produced timber is made illegal
• A simple, long-term financial solution to make protecting forests more worthwhile than their destruction
Often wider international issues can provide a moment for reflecting on the success of conservation objectives at a national level. Regrettably the UK remains one of the least wooded regions in Europe; indeed new native woodland creation has virtually stopped whilst ancient woods – our equivalent to the rainforest – continue to be under threat from development.
Thankfully the UK Government is seeking to redress some of these shortcomings and recognises the value of new woodland creation as shown by a recent report from the Forestry Commission, which was welcomed at its launch by the Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn. Let us hope that the next Parliament continues to recognise the value of woods and trees by pressing for more expansive targets and better protection for ancient woods.