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International treaties in nature conservation: a UK perspective

July 2022

This month we added a new book to the library, which gives a good introduction to the international treaties that shape conservation in the UK. At a time when COP 15 and the EU habitat regulations are in the daily news, having an understanding of how policies are developed and what they each try to achieve is essential for conservationists wanting to make a difference.

This book is a quick read that treads a fine line between objective and the personal- written by a group of experts with a diverse history of participating in international treaties, the reader can find a helpful overview of how international treaties have developed over the past fifty years, their scopes, strengths and weaknesses, and the ways they are implemented in the UK.

Although an objective introduction in many ways, there are frequently places where the authors don’t hold back their views, sometimes expressing frustrations with the cynical establishment of working groups to slow discussion, the longstanding lack of synergy between government departments, high turnover in government ministers, or the role of Defra in negotiating on behalf of the devolved nations.

One of the persistent themes through the book is for the conservationist to bear in mind the trade-offs between a treaty’s scale of ambition and the ‘precision’ with which it is likely be implemented. For those wanting to take action, a reminder to think local and set reachable targets is always valuable, as long as we have robust coordination at the level of international policy.

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