Where was the bulldog spirit on 19 December Mrs Spelman?

We used to talk about joined up government, but I haven’t heard the phrase used so often these days.  Maybe that’s just as well when the Defra Secretary of State regards biodiversity as the spice of life and the Chancellor regards it as the kiss of death for the economy.

But we would have to go to the EU for a recent and blatant example of lack of joined up policy-making.  Just before Christmas, the EU Environment Ministers met to agree details on the EU Biodiversity Strategy that will last to 2020 and which will provide the EU’s plan to meet the Aichi targets which the EU and most of the world agreed in Nagoya, Japan in October 2010.

At their meeting on 19 December, the Environment Ministers agreed to remove calls in the EU Biodiversity Strategy for the Common Agricultural Policy to include biodiversity objectives.  Despite the fact that most of the EU land mass is farmed, the main EU policy instrument which guides and directs farming will not set wildlife objectives.  That takes the biscuit for ‘unjoinedupness’!

And it’s not as though the call for biodiversity targets was never there – the Ministers agreeed to take it out.

And it’s not as though these are the Agriculture Ministers – these are the Environment Ministers (for heaven’s sake!).

So, who was it who represented the UK at this meeting?  It was, in fact, our Secretary of State for the Environment (but also for farming, of course), Caroline Spelman according to Hansard.  Where was Mrs Spelman’s ‘bulldog spirit‘ at this meeting? Why did she not emulate her leader David Cameron and hold out as 1 against the other 26 Member States?

It can’t be because Mrs Spelman doesn’t care about the environment for we know that she does.

And it can’t be that she is unaware of the importance of farming for meeting biodiversity objectives, for we know she is fully aware.

And it can’t be that she is unaware that the UK agreed in Japapn in 2010 that:

By 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably. (and people must include farmers)


By 2020, at the latest, incentives, including subsidies, harmful to biodiversity are eliminated, phased out or reformed in order to minimize or avoid negative impacts, and positive incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity are developed and applied, consistent and in harmony with the Convention and other relevant international obligations, taking into account national socio economic conditions.


By 2020, at the latest, Governments, business and stakeholders at all levels have taken steps to achieve or have implemented plans for sustainable production and consumption and have kept the impacts of use of natural resources well within safe ecological limits.


By 2020 areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation of biodiversity.


By 2020, pollution, including from excess nutrients, has been brought to levels that are not detrimental to ecosystem function and biodiversity.

No it can’t be because Mrs Spelman has forgotten these Aichi targets because she played an important role in getting them agreed in Nagoya.

So why was it that the UK agreed not to call for the CAP to take into account biodiversity in its reform? Why? And why has Defra been so quiet about the outcome of this Environment Council meeting – there is no mention of its decisions that I can find on the Defra website.

The EU Environment Commissioner was clearly not thrilled by this decision of environment ministers when he saidthe Commission can only regret the deletion of all concrete indications on the required way forward to strengthen the contribution of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to biodiversity objectives‘ which is EU-speak for he was boiling mad at the spinelessness of Environment Ministers.

It’s pretty obvious really.  The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy is the framework under which farmers operate. It sets out a range of farming, environmental and rural development activities as well as controlling EU agricultural markets. It is the single largest common policy across the EU. Whose words? Defra’s actually!  And that’s why the Environment Ministers weren’t doing their jobs when they took out calls in the EU Biodiversity Strategy for farming to deliver biodiversity objectives too.

Not so much a lot of bulldogs as a lot of bull!

See here and here for some comment on this.

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