Defra should not lead sustainability action across government, say MPs

2nd February 2011


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  • UK government ,
  • Central government

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IEMA

A committee of MPs has concluded that Defra lacks sufficient clout to get the rest of the government to act more sustainably.

Instead, the House of Commons environmental audit committee (EAC) says that a new minister, based in the Cabinet Offi ce, should lead on embedding sustainability throughout the government.

“The sustainability agenda needs to be driven from the centre of government. Defra has the expertise, but it does not have the infl uence,” said Joan Walley, chair of the EAC.

MPs also want a new cabinet committee established to address sustainable development, oversee departmental performance and encourage more sustainable decisionmaking. It should consist of ministers from all departments, the new minister for sustainable development and the Prime Minister, says the EAC.

The recommendations follow its inquirylooking at how sustainability will be championed in government when funding is withdrawn at the end of the current fi nancial year from the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), the independent environmental watchdog.

Making a cabinet minister responsible will help embed sustainable development in policymaking, the EAC believes. It acknowledges that the SDC, despite its hard work, had largely failed to achieve this goal, mainly because of what the EAC says was political indiff erence.

MPs raise concerns that withdrawal of funding for the SDC will lead to a loss of experience and resources, however, risking the government’s green agenda.


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