For Polar Bears, One Man Really Could Make a Difference - Meet UK Environment Minister Richard Benyon

Polar Bear (Photo by NOAA)

It’s rare that one person can have an impact on the future of an entire species, but that’s where things stand with the US proposal to ban the international commercial trade in polar bear parts (skins, teeth, claws, skulls, etc.) through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).  So how is it that one person – the United Kingdom’s Environment Minister, Richard Benyon – could play such a pivotal role?

Can he singlehandedly solve climate change?  No.  With a pen stroke can he create a refuge for polar bears in Canada – the country where polar bears have the best chance of surviving the ravages of climate change by the end of the century?  No.  Can he get the United Kingdom to support the US proposal and, thus, help secure European Union votes at the next CITES meeting in Thailand in March, which would likely lead to passage of the ban on the international polar bear trade?  YES!

Tweet to @RichardBenyonMP Please stand up for #polarbears & vote to end the global trade of polar bears!

Many European Union countries already publicly support the US proposal (Danke schoen Austria!), while others oppose (way to let Greenland dominate decisionmaking Denmark), but other countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and the Netherlands are undecided.  Support from some of these countries would likely make the difference in the EU overall.  Thus the power Mr. Benyon has over the fate of the international polar bear trade as it’s his Ministry that will determine the UK’s vote.

What’s Mr. Benyon likely to do?  We don’t know yet, but there’s cause for hope.  First, the British public apparently overwhelmingly supports a ban.  Second, Mr. Benyon himself has demonstrated long-standing leadership on many global wildlife issues and he has a personal passion for animals and nature.  Finally, while ending the international trade in polar bear parts won’t ensure polar bears survive into the next century, it certainly will give them a better chance to survive as long as possible while humanity gets climate change under control.

Seems like a sensible choice for Mr. Benyon.

Congress may be paralyzed, but ordinary people are taking matters into our own hands. We are writing our leaders by the million, and we are delivering a clear and simple message: it's time to clean up the pollution that is destabilizing our climate and endangering our health.

You can tell Benyon's boss – Prime Minister Cameron Click here to take action– to stand up for polar bears by signing NRDC's petition.

About the Authors

Zak Smith

Senior Attorney, Marine Mammal Protection Project, Land & Wildlife Program

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