We recently attended a conference regarding new EU Legislation.
Earlier this week a small delegation from Environet, myself included, attended a conference at Portcullis House in Westminster on the new EU Legislation that came into force on January 1st 2015 on invasive alien species (IAS) such as Japanese knotweed. The EU Commission reckons there are some 12,000 alien species in the EU, of which 10-15% are considered invasive, and regulations are now in place (sort of) to limit their spread. I say sort of because it hasn't yet been decided which of the 12,000 are to be regulated.
Of obvious interest to us is Japanese knotweed
. As it's described by the Environment Agency as "indisputably the UK's most aggressive and destructive plant" one would think it is a likely candidate for inclusion onto the list. Bio-security border controls will be tightened, early detection and rapid response systems put in place, and for those species that already have a hold, prevention measures will be required.
I hear you ask whether these species will decide to enter through Checkpoint Charlie and hence come under the scrutiny of the border guards or decide to find a more direct route. I also hear you question whether we need more legislation, particularly as existing legislation relating to species such as Japanese knotweed is not currently being enforced. Some commentators might suggest the new powers under the Infrastructure Act 2015 and the powers given to local authorities and the police under ASBO legislation are sufficient?
Where do I stand on all this in relation to Japanese knotweed? It is without doubt that invasive alien species are a big threat to our biodiversity, and cause a big economic impact. Legislation certainly plays a role in raising awareness of the problem. But in my experience economic drivers are often a better and more efficient tool for action than blunt legislative instruments. As the main problem with Japanese knotweed does not lie in biodiversity (what price does one put on that?) but on the damage it causes to property and the reduction of it's value, strong economic drivers already exist that motivate affected landowners to take action, in order to protect their land investment. And for those irresponsible landowners who don't take action, and allow Japanese knotweed spread and encroachment into adjoining property their comeuppance is legal action under civil nuisance for the victim of the affected adjoining land. Such cases are becoming more prevalent, and out of court settlements are becoming more common. So whilst I'm sure the listing of Japanese knotweed under the new EU legislation would be good for our business, I'm not certain it is entirely necessary.
What about species that don't have an easily quantifiable economic impact on the landowner, such as the Asian Hornet? Where economics is not a driver for action then I'm fully supportive of legislative measures to eradicate such species. Watch this space, one thing is for sure, and that is that legislation will only tighten with time.