Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey addresses United for Wildlife

Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey discusses UK ambition to tackle the illegal wildlife trade in Singapore

The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP

Morning, everyone, thank you to United for Wildlife for bringing us together here in dazzling Singapore, and for all the amazing work you do to build a safer, more sustainable future for communities that depend on the natural world so deeply, and threatened species right around the globe.

I know just how much our own native species mean to us back in the UK so much in fact, that many of the species of flora and fauna we are working hard to support will be celebrated on the first coins being minted to mark the new reign of King Charles III, reflecting his the love of the natural world that he has nurtured over decades, and very clearly passed on to his son, the Prince of Wales, from whom we heard last night.

We know that the love of nature, of flora and fauna is of course reflected around the world often being used with pride as national emblems.

We all rely on the natural world for everything from food to water to the air we breathe, the functioning climate and weather systems, and the peace and prosperity we all want to see.

And at a time when a quarter of plant and animal species are at risk of extinction, many within decades,

we know that for some of the most endangered species in the world, the illegal wildlife trade is the gravest threat they face as transnational criminal trade to the tune of £23 billion dollars a year brings violence and corruption to countries and communities who are and must be at the forefront of finding solutions and more sustainable alternatives as well.

This has been a personal priority for me over many years, previously I was an Environment Minister, I’m now back in the environment department as Secretary of State and tackling this illegal trade is very important for the UK government we’ve continued to build on work we have done since we hosted the first global Illegal Wildlife Trade conference back in 2014.

We have committed over £51m to 157 projects through our IWT Challenge Fund and I think there are several organisations here who may have benefitted from that. That means working in over 60 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe,

and protecting a broad range of threatened species, including pangolins, jaguar and orchids.

In recent years, we’ve achieved 288 arrests, 482 cases for prosecution, 141 successful prosecutions, and millions of pounds worth of illegal-wildlife trade products seized in collaboration with many of you.

We are continuing to support projects designed to help communities, from the Lower Mekong to the Amazon to build more sustainable livelihoods, including through our newly-established £100m Biodiverse Landscapes Fund, and we continue to back the Global Environment Facility’s ‘Global Wildlife Programme’.

And by backing the work of the International Consortium for Combatting Wildlife Crime we are helping to bring key agencies together, to build the long-term capacity in law enforcement that we need around the world if we are to combat wildlife crime effectively.

We all know we have to keep learning about about the major transnational syndicates and routes and tackling them is going to require a collective approach to targeting high-level criminals and deterring this crime.

But what we do know is that the gangs who traffic natural capitalise on weak governance in our systems.

And while vast flows of ill-gotten gains are moved on to massive markets across the region, too often criminal enterprises go unchallenged, and that is why the UK is supporting the efforts of countries at both ends of the Africa-Asia route, and tackling this in partnership wherever we can.

We’re keen in the UK build on our work to date, focusing our efforts on the things where governments can achieve the greatest impact from making the most of the tools we already have, including CITES,  supporting the efforts of countries at both ends of the Africa-Asia route.

to strengthen sharing intelligence and bolstering enforcement, helping communities build more sustainable livelihoods and disarm the criminal gangs, as well as building political will around the world. And in all this, working together, in partnership, across sectors is key to making it impossible for traffickers to transport, finance, or profit from illegal wildlife products,

And that is why I am pleased that the UK is confirmed signing up to your new Statement of Principals, and that we will be encouraging others to join us to help us work together across jurisdictions and with all sectors

Building that bigger picture and having quicker communication, we know that is needed to stay one step ahead of the criminals, to achieve further seizures, forfeitures, and arrests, and prevent, detect, and disrupt the financial activity of major transnational syndicates involved in wildlife crime so there is no place for them to hide.

I know that the foundation has put on a packed schedule full of the real heroes making this happen on the ground. I know you’ve got a busy day ahead of you and I’m pleased that I’m here to support you and I wish you well as you scope out what happens next to help nature recover and communities thrive.

Thank you very much.

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affair
The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP