Minutes

 

CONFIRMED MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE JOINT NATURE CONSERVATION COMMITTEE, HELD ON WEDNESDAY 15 JUNE 2005 AT THE TRE-YSGAWEN COUNTRY HOUSE HOTEL, CAPEL COCH, LLANGEFNI, ISLE OF ANGLESEY, NORTH WALES LL77 7UR.

 

 Present:   
Dr Andrews
Dr Blakiston Houston
Mr Darby (Chairman)
Professor Ingram
Mr Lloyd Jones
Dr Markland
Dr Moser
Professor Pentreath
Professor Sprent

In attendance

Dr A Brown

Ms Fowler

Professor Galbraith

Mrs Quince  

Mr Steer

Mr Thomas

Dr Vincent

Mr Yeo

Apologies:
Dr B Brown
Rev Dr Burgess
Sir Martin Doughty
Professor Doyle
Dr Jardine
 
                           
 

Contents:

 
1.          Chairman's opening remarks
 
2.          Declaration of interests
 
3.          Amendments to the minutes of the sixty-fifth meeting (JNCC 05 P07)
 
4.          Matters arising (JNCC 05 P08)
 
Discussion papers
 
 
 
 
Closed Session
 
8.          Preparing for the UK Presidency of the EU (Confidential) (JNCC 05 D08)
 
9.          Any other business.
 

1. Chairman's Opening Remarks

 
Apologies were received from Dr B Brown, Rev Dr Burgess, Sir Martin Doughty, Professor Doyle and Dr Jardine.
 
1.2       Mr Darby and Mr Steer were welcomed back to Committee on their return from sick leave.  Committee expressed their thanks to Professor Ingram for undertaking the role of Acting Chair and to Dr Vincent, Mr Yeo and the rest of the JNCC staff for completing the work required on the FMPR and for delivering the work programme whilst maintaining effective control systems.
 

2. Declaration of interests

 
2.1       In relation to agenda item 8, Mr Darby, Dr Moser, Mr Lloyd-Jones and Dr Blakiston Houston declared that they received funding under agri-environment schemes.  Professor Sprent requested a standing declaration on air pollution as  Chair of the Steering Group on the NERC thematic programmes and on climate change as a member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.
 
3. Amendments to the minutes of the sixty-sixth meeting (JNCC 05 P07)
 
3.1       One amendment to the minutes had already been received and incorporated.  One amendment was tabled at the meeting which related to 9.2 of the minutes.  It was requested that the words 'for some species' be inserted after the words 'delivery of action plans'. Subject to these amendments, the minutes were approved.
 
3.2       Committee agreed that the style of the minutes for this and future meetings be changed to reflect general discussion rather than contain comments and views attributed to particular Committee members.  It was agreed that the minutes should record consensus decisions, but where a member dissents from the general consensus they should be asked if they wish their dissent recorded.
 
4. Matters arising (JNCC 05 P08)
 
4.1       Committee were informed of the urgency of finding a new name for the company and of the staff's frustration at the delays incurred in the process.  Committee were informed that the possibility of changing the formal name of the Joint Committee using the NERC Bill, now looks remote, but that it would still be possible to change the name of the company.  Further informal consultation on the name would take place with stakeholders over the next few months and this work would form part of a wider communications strategy for JNCC and linked to promotion of the JNCC strategy.
 
4.2       Committee were informed that Jim Knight, the Defra Minister for Rural Affairs, Landscape and Biodiversity, had sought clarification on some aspects of the Corporate Plan for 2005, and the Managing Director had undertaken to provide this as a matter of urgency.
 
AP1     Mr Steer to produce a timetable for the strategy/name launch taking account of initiatives in the country agencies.
 
5. UK and International Air Pollution Policy: Priorities for JNCC and the Country Agencies (JNCC 05 D05)
 
5.1       Committee were reminded that past practice had been to use the summer Committee meetings to explore strategic issues.  For this meeting, the topic selected, building on the previous day's field excursion was environmental change and the three discussion papers had been prepared to explore this topic.
 
5.2       The first of these, JNCC 05 D05, was introduced by Dr Vincent, and dealt with air pollution.  Committee were asked to note the work of the Air Pollution Lead Co-ordination Network; to discuss priorities for future policy influencing; and to discuss the proposals for monitoring of air pollution impacts on terrestrial semi-natural habitats in the UK.
 
5.3       In discussion, the following points were raised in relation to policy influencing:
 
i.          reducing air pollution from transport and agricultural activities should be a high priority;
 
ii.          strong links to the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency were essential;
 
iii.         account should be taken also of atmospheric deposition in the marine environment, including work predicting an increase in acidity of the sea resulting from carbon dioxide emissions.
 
5.4       In relation to monitoring the environmental impacts of air pollution, the following points were raised:
 
i.          it would be very difficult to take account of the effect of air pollution on designated sites through Common Standards Monitoring;
 
ii.          there would be advantages in monitoring air pollution impacts on a wider range of sites than the existing Environmental Change Network;
 
iii.         additional monitoring and research should be targeted at answering specific questions;
 
iv.         impacts on soils should be taken into account, e.g. soil bacteria may be very sensitive to pollution.
 
5.5       Committee noted that air pollution had caused vegetational changes on some sites prior to their designation. 
 
6. Climate Change and Nature Conservation Policy: Overview and Suggestions for JNCC's Future Direction (JNCC 05 D06)
 
6.1       Mr Yeo introduced the paper and explained the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, the national/international climate change policy framework and the current involvement of JNCC and the country agencies in climate change work.  Committee were informed that the paper offers an early opportunity for them to feed ideas into a review of JNCC's climate change work which will take place over the next 6 months.
 
6.2       In discussion, the following points were raised in relation to JNCC's possible future role:
 
i.          mitigation and adaptation issues must be looked at together;
 
ii.          we need to develop practical measures to deal with the impacts of climate change, e.g. habitat corridors between protected sites;
 
iii.         the international context for climate change is critical, e.g. analysis of impacts on biodiversity within a biogeographical framework;
 
iv.         climate change might have significant implications for the UK's Overseas Territories;
 
v.         climate change might lead to changes in plant diseases that might affect biodiversity;
 
vi.         having a robust evidence base for decisions on climate change was essential, e.g. identifying research needs for mitigation/adaptation, and making links to existing biodiversity surveillance programmes.
 
6.3       Committee discussed whether it would be beneficial to establish a Lead Co-ordination Network for climate change.  It was agreed that this should be considered following the review of JNCC's role and also discussions within the Chief Scientists Group about the future work of the existing inter-agency climate change group.
 
AP2  Mr Yeo and Dr Vincent to bring the issue back to Committee in December 2005.
 
7. Environmental Change Reflected in the State of Nature (JNCC 05 D07)
 
7.1       Dr Vincent introduced the paper and explained that it was intended to provide Committee with a summary of the state of the UK's biodiversity and the types of information currently available to report on it.  Committee were informed that this was the first time a paper attempting to provide an overall assessment of biodiversity had been considered by the Committee.  The work is still very much in progress and improvements can still be made.  Further work will take place during 2005.  Committee were invited to comment on the trends outlined in the paper and on the conclusions for further work as set out in para 6.7.
 
7.2       In discussion, Committee noted that whilst in general, the decline in the distributional range of  plant species may be slowing and many were actually showing increases in their range, this was not true of rare arable plants.  Committee agreed that whilst much had been achieved it was important not to be too optimistic about what had been achieved in the last 10 years as there was still much work to do.
 
 
7.3       Committee considered the Rothampsted moth data should be included in the state of nature reporting.
 
7.4       In discussion, Committee agreed that it was important to channel effort and resources into answering the key policy questions, including those raised through surveillance and monitoring.  It was important to see what was being achieved from a strategic point of view to ascertain the state of nature conservation.  At the moment, it was difficult to find out how effective the various environmental measures which have been taken actually are, for example: designation of sites, planning controls and wildlife legislation
 
 
7.5       On priorities, (para 6.7) Committee agreed that (ii) and (iv) were important.  It was agreed that soils be included as a priority and that more on marine biodiversity (outside of fish) would be useful. 
 
7.6       In discussion, Committee agreed that the whole range of biodiversity indicators be considered and that JNCC were well placed to demonstrate leadership in this area.  A shift of resources might be required to achieve this.
 
7.7       In discussion, Committee agreed that putting information to good use was important and that the following should be considered:-
 
i.          conservation policy;
ii.          what was required from surveillance for a wider policy agenda, e.g. transport issues.
 
7.8       The paper was commended by Committee.  Thanks were expressed to Paul Rose for a highly informative paper.
 
 
8. Preparing for the UK Presidency of the EU (Confidential) (JNCC 05 D08)
 
The minutes for this item are contained in a confidential addendum.
 

9. Any other business

 
9.1       Mechanisms for feedback from the vision and process working groups were discussed.  It was confirmed that short minutes from each group would be circulated to all Committee members and appropriate issues would be added to the Committee forward programme.  Committee members who are not members of the two groups but have issues they wish to raise should do so with Mr Yeo.