UK Commitments & Our role

The UKOTs and CDs boast some of the world’s most delicate and complex ecosystems and habitats. Collectively they hold a truly staggering amount of biodiversity.

The UK has responsibility for international commitments involving the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies and many of these relate to their wildlife and habitats. For territories with human populations, the UK Government does not normally enter into international commitments on their behalf without first consulting the government of the territory. This is important because, whilst UK is answerable internationally, it is the territory legislature and administration which generate necessary territory legislation and implement it. (Squaring this circle was one of the main reasons for UKOTCF suggesting the “check-list” (see Mike Pienkowski: Paradise mis-filed? in Ecos 19: 1-11, 1998) which eventually evolved into the Environment Charters agreed between UK Government and most territory governments.

Some territories have pointed out that the level of information and advice from UK Government in the cases of some proposed international agreements has not always been at an adequate level. In some such cases, UKOTCF has attempted to fill the gaps when resources have allowed. This was acknowledged by the then Prime Minister, John Major, in his foreword to the Government Response to the UK Steering Group on Biodiversity (HMSO, London, Cm 3260). More recently, there has been some sharing of this task, such as at the 2015 Gibraltar Conference in respect of extending the Convention on Biological Diversity to more territories.

Information on which territories each international agreement has been extended to is very scattered through UK Government archives. A first attempt to gather this (and for other EU Member States) was made by Clare Coffey and Mike Pienkowski in Biodiversity laws in the EC’s associated territories (Ecos 19: 36-41, 1998). The information on which international environmental agreements have been extended to which UK territories has now been expanded and updated in this web-site.

More information on some of the Agreements themselves is given in other pages in the section on International Environmental Conventions.