Government accused of lack of domestic engagement on SDGs

25th April 2016

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  • Built environment



The government sees the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) primarily as an overseas aid issue rather than targets it needs to also meet domestically, according to one of the experts involved in drawing them up.

The SDGs were agreed by international governments in September and replace the millennium development goals, which primarily targeted issues in developing countries. By contrast, the SDGs aim to tackle problems such as climate change; industry and infrastructure; sustainable cities and affordable and clean energy for all citizens globally.

Sustainability charity Bioregional was involved with the UN in developing the goal on sustainable consumption and production. Together with WWF and international sustainable development organisation Stakeholder Forum, it is setting up a network of businesses, charities and academics to exchange ideas and collaborate on how meet the 17 goals in the UK.

Organisations signed up so far include CDP, the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, retailer Kingfisher and publishing company Pearson.

More than 50 organisations attended today’s launch event for the UKSSD today, including representatives from the Department for International Development (DfID), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) as well as the Welsh government.

‘The government is very involved in terms of the aid budget,’ Sue Riddlestone, chief executive of Bioregional said. ‘This is great, but we also want to see action in the UK.’

There is a large amount of work to be done in the UK on at least half of the SDGs, Riddlestone said. Issues that particularly need to be tackled domestically are unsustainable consumption and agriculture, she said.

‘Government sees it as an aid budget issue, not a domestic policy issue,’ she said.

The parliamentary International Development Committee is currently scrutinising the government’s implementation of the SDGs internationally and domestically. At a hearing in January, development secretary Justine Greening told MPs that the government did not have a specific plan to create a cross-departmental taskforce on implementing the SDGs.

‘Our role will be working with the Cabinet Office to ensure that there is a cross-government structural process in place that can be used to ensure that we are tracking progress,’ she said.

Greening said statisticians at the ONS were working with counterparts at the UN to finalise the indicators to measure progress against the goals, while the government is consulting across departments to decide whether to introduce national indicators.

‘We are accountable for delivering on our manifesto, which covers a huge range of what is in the sustainable development goals, obviously… I do not see any contradiction, frankly, between what we have in our manifesto and delivering on the SDGs,’ she told the committee.

For more information on how to join the UKSSD, click here.


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