Celebration of World Biosphere Day – Selaine Saxby MP

Thursday November 3 marked the first-ever World Biosphere Day. There are 738 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in the world, only 7 of which are in the UK. We are fortunate in North Devon to be home to the very first in the UK and one of the first in the world.

This year we have seen 40 degree temperatures that have affected everything from our local wildlife to farmers’ crops to our man-made infrastructure. As the climate crisis deepens, we must learn to live with and manage our environments. Our policy going forward must be to create a shared world that supports us and our native wildlife.

Launched 50 years ago, these “living laboratories” study the conflict between human activity and our natural environment. They now cover 5% of the earth’s surface, an area roughly the size of Australia. First designated in 1976, then the first UK Biosphere to meet new UNESCO criteria in 2002, the North Devon Biosphere has conducted innovative research and devised methods to protect and manage our environment.

As our government takes control of the opportunities offered by Brexit and provides more funding and grants to promote environmental protection, these decades of scientific research are crucial. We all want to see our beautiful countryside and our British coasts healthier. To effectively protect and restore them, we need to know what methods work and how best to approach the problem.

To celebrate the incomparable contribution of our biospheres, I had the pleasure of leading a debate in the House of Commons on the occasion of World Biosphere Day. As a resident of the Biosphere myself, I feel incredibly lucky to live so close to such important and well-protected habitats.

The success of the work over the past 46 years shows, on land and at sea, that they have given impetus to a local nature restoration plan; in our marine environments they improved the levels of phosphates, this was the first work of its kind in the country. They initiated projects in the 25-year environmental plan, under which they developed natural capital strategies for the region, which are now in operation with the Community Renewal Fund.

The work of our North Devon Biosphere is not limited to North Devon, but extends overseas with partnerships in Kenya, supporting Biospheres there to deliver projects. They work with the European biospheres to coordinate a network of forests. In Southeast Asia, they work on marine planning and conservation and community health.

As UNESCO’s oldest intergovernmental science programme, our Global Biospheres are a testament to what we can achieve as a world when we work together. Working together is the only way to tackle the global climate crisis, and as we transition to the presidency of the COP, November 3 should remind us of the importance of international collaboration.

The path the biospheres have charted over the past 50 years shows that we can live sustainably. It’s not a choice between modern life or saving our planet, both can be achieved, it’s up to us to make it happen.

Written by Selaine Saxby, MP for North Devon

Selaine Saxby, MP for North Devon – Credit: Submitted

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