International treaties in nature conservation: a UK perspective
It is increasingly evident that international treaties that make specific environmental demands on national governments are not just a vital backstop for ensuring minimum standards for conserving the natural riches of our planet, but have in fact been responsible for some of the most impressive environmental achievements of the last 50 years or so. Just think, in the United Kingdom alone, 175 wetlands of international importance have been protected (>1.2 million hectares of global significance under the Ramsar Convention), 284 Special Protection Areas designated (>5.4 million hectares protected under the EU Birds Directive) and a nationwide ban on use of lead shot over wetlands implemented (under the African−Eurasian Waterbird Agreement). As this book eloquently shows, these massive contributions to national, regional and global environmental protection have been achieved only thanks to the enactment of domestic legislation required under these international obligations.
Natural historians are painfully aware of the constant battle to protect and enhance the very little of the ‘natural world’ left to us today. To understand just how important treaties are in delivering international cooperation and alignment to enable effective nature conservation of species and habitats on the ground, read this book! Its existence removes the need to struggle with the legalese of the Ramsar and Bern Convention agreement texts and their very many opaque and impenetrable resolutions and amendments. This book is excellent at carefully unpicking what treaties are, how they work, just why they are so critical for the conservation of UK wildlife and natural habitats and, perhaps more importantly, how and why they can be used to drive national policy and be more effective at delivering positive outcomes now and in the future.
Sections on historical development and national implementation explain the roles of NGOs and how to hold governments to account to deliver obligations under conventions. Vital sections look forward, horizon scanning for future developments, and backward, assessing the effectiveness of multilateral environmental agreements and what we have learnt from historical triumphs and failures. With the UK departing from the EU and freeing itself of the associated set of international legislation, such reflection and analysis are critical to making sure that the removal of EU compliance mechanisms does not result in serious risks to UK environmental protection standards. This would be especially ironic, given the pivotal role that the UK has played in contributing to the development of nature conservation and environmental protection around the globe (Chapter 8).
This long overdue and insightful reference book on a difficult and extensive subject runs to just 94 pages (including many references, a glossary and author profiles, as well as good photographs), written ‘from the inside’ by a team of 11 highly experienced practitioners, and orchestrated by one of the UK’s foremost experts in the field. It is therefore authoritative and densely packed, yet commendably succinct, well paced and easy to read. Inevitably specialist, it is nevertheless a compelling read and will become a worthy source of reference for years to come.Reviewed by - Anthony Fox