Search

Biodiversity Day: Meg Randles in Conversation with Barry Gardiner MP

Barry Gardiner Biodiversity

For Biodiversity Day 2023, Chamber UK organised an exclusive interview with Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North and one of the most vocal environmental campaigners in the House of Commons. The interview was conducted by Meg Randles, a Political Campaigner for Greenpeace UK, who quizzed Gardiner on several issues relating to biodiversity.

Gardiner is passionate about nature and sits on several Select Committees including the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA). He also Chairs two All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) on Nature and International Conservation.  

To start the discussion, Randles asked Gardiner for his thoughts on the UK’s role in protecting nature across the world. Talking about the recent COP15 in Montreal, Gardiner spoke positively about the steps the UK has been taking. He said:

“Very often, all I do is criticise the government but if you go back to COP15, they really did play a blinder. They got the agreement on 30 by 30 over the line and we’ve now seen the benefit of that in the High Seas Treaty.

We are going in the right direction, but we need to go faster. We know the climate window is closing but we also what’s happening in biodiversity – the days of viewing these two things as separate crises are over.”

The importance of the High Seas Treaty

Around 95% of the world’s living organisms live in the ocean yet until very recently only 1% of it was under any kind of protection, largely due to jurisdiction issues. However, since March, UN members signed the High Seas Treaty which will ensure the protection and sustainable use of marine biodiversity.

Talking about the importance of this Treaty, Gardiner said:

“Nature has always been viewed as the junior partner to climate, but this treaty shows that nations are now starting to realise that there is no point in solving the climate crisis without understanding how it is connected to the environmental crisis.

I don’t think I would have said by March (three months after COP15) that we would have a treaty and we do that is quite something. What now needs to happen is that this treaty needs to be ratified by everyone so that we can put enforcement in place. There is no point in a treaty if you don’t enforce it.

As a starting point, the government must start to ensure that we are enforcing against any of our own vessels that are violating the treaty. We also need to make sure that appropriate port states are aware of what’s going on so that they can get monitoring right.”

Biodiversity as a parliamentary priority

With a general election looming within the next 18 months or so, could biodiversity be an area in which the Labour Party targets to get voters on their side? And does Gardiner believe that the Conservatives are as serious about it as other parties? He said:

“There are a number of us within the Labour Party who see the possibility of being in government soon and we are thinking about what’s the biggest change we can make to people’s lives.

Of course, there are plenty of domestic issues such as housing, cost of living and education but actually, making sure we can still inhabit the planet by the time young people are older is more important than anything. There is a real core within Labour dedicated to ensuring that.”

Concerning how he believes the Conservatives are dealing with the issue of biodiversity, Gardiner was hesitant to be overly critical but did recall a few conversations he’s had with rival MPs that concerned him:

“I’ve had discussions with Foreign Office officials where they’ve simply tried to lay off the responsibility to overseas territories. But they know that they have no money and internationally, we are responsible for these territories.

However, there are also plenty of MPs across all parties who share a common cause and who put forward very powerful cases to the government, most notably Caroline Lucas and Phillip Dunn.

My advice to the government when it comes to biodiversity would be to first and foremost get it right domestically. There is no point in strutting on a stage international if you haven’t got it right domestically and we clearly haven’t done that yet.”

Biodiversity campaigns

As mentioned, Gardiner sits on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA). Recently, EFRA put forward a recommendation to the government to ban plastic waste exports. Expanding on this recommendation, and recalling how it’s been a long time coming, Barry said:

“I feel really sad that we’re still here because when I was Shadow Environmental Minister in 2012, I was saying then that we need to ban plastic waste export. Yet, eleven years later we still haven’t created the capacity in this country to stop exporting plastic waste abroad.

There is no alternative solution and we need to put a ban on it now and also clamp down on electrical waste too. This idea that ‘well you can take your old printer cartridges back to the shop and they have to accept them’ isn’t good enough because who is really going to do that? We’re just not creating the capacity domestically to do this right and we need to.

Another campaign that Gardiner is a part of relates to the inquiry into Arctic Science. He labels the inquiry as “incredibly topical” due to the fact that scientific cooperation has now ceased with Russia due to their invasion of Ukraine. Explaining more about the inquiry, Gardiner said:

“Anybody who thinks climate and biodiversity are separate simply needs to just look at the Arctic. Why is it that Atlantic cod are now moving so far north that fishermen are struggling to fish for them?

We’ve been speaking with an Italian Scientist about how the melting of the ice in the Arctic is affecting the production of seaweed and how that had a detrimental impact on the food chain. It’s very worrying what’s going on and the inquiry is still going on.”

A message of hope

Despite his concerns, Gardiner was keen to end the interview on a positive note as he doesn’t believe it’s too late to turn things around. He said:

“It’s very easy to always be complaining about how we’re not doing enough but sometimes it is important to look back and say we’ve travelled a huge distance.

I remember back in 2006, I was talking to the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs about the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment that had just been published but all I saw around the room were blank faces.

We’ve moved a heck of a long way since and yes; we’d like to still move quicker now but what we’ve achieved over the past 15 years should give us the confidence that we can go further.”

Final thought

The interview with Barry Gardiner provides valuable insights into the UK’s efforts to protect nature and combat the biodiversity crisis. Gardiner highlights the importance of the High Seas Treaty and the need for enforcement to ensure its success. He also emphasizes the urgency of the situation, noting that the UK has only a short time to turn things around.

Both the Governmment’s commitment and Labour’s promises concerning  biodiversity will be a key issue in the upcoming election, and Gardiner believes that there is a growing recognition of the importance of this issue among politicians and the public. He calls for a ban on plastic waste exports and stricter regulations on electrical waste.

Overall, Gardiner’s message is one of hope and urgency, emphasising the need for immediate action to protect the planet for future generations.

Share

Related Topics

Latest

Video Features

Insights from greater:SATX on UK-Texas Trade Deal and Cybersecurity Collaboration

Energy & Net Zero Secretary, Claire Coutinho MP at International Women's Day Parliamentary Reception

Inspiring Breast Cancer Now Fundraiser for 2024 London Marathon

50:50 Parliament North of England Rally, #CallingAllWomen, Leeds

Subscribe to our newsletter for your free digital copy of the journal!

Receive our latest insights, future journals as soon as they are published and get invited to our exclusive events and webinars.

Newsletter Signups
?
?

We respect your privacy and will not share your email address with any third party. Your personal data will be collected and handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Never miss an issue by subcribing to our newsletter!

Receive our latest insights and all future journals as soon as they are published and get invited to our exclusive events and webinars.

Newsletter Signups
?
?

We respect your privacy and will not share your email address with any third party. Your personal data will be collected and handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Never miss an issue by subcribing to our newsletter!

Receive our latest insights and all future journals as soon as they are published and get invited to our exclusive events and webinars.

Newsletter Signups
?
?

We respect your privacy and will not share your email address with any third party. Your personal data will be collected and handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Newsletter Signup

Receive our latest insights as soon as they are published and get invited to our exclusive events and webinars.

Newsletter Signups
?
?

We respect your privacy and will not share your email address with any third party. Your personal data will be collected and handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy.