Government failing on biodiversity, air pollution and flooding, say MPs

16th September 2014

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  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Air ,
  • Natural resources


Roy Anderson

An overarching environment strategy is needed to improve the government's performance in dealing with environmental issues, a cross-party group of MPs has recommended.

In a report assessing how the government has dealt with a range of environmental issues over the course of this parliament, the environmental audit committee said that satisfactory progress has not been made in any of the 10 areas it examined.

The MPs highlighted air pollution, biodiversity and flooding as areas of particular concern, meaning that there has been a clear deterioration in these since 2010, or that progress has been at a pace unlikely to put improvement on a satisfactory trajectory by the end of the next parliament, from 2015 to 2020.

Following the abolition of the sustainable development commission in 2011, there is still more to be done to embed sustainable development across government, MPs said.

They condemn the lack of an overarching system for identifying how different policy levers might be used best to protect different areas of the environment, and the absence of a system to hold the government to account for its overall long-term performance on the environment.

An overarching environment strategy could set out strategic principles to guide the action needed by both local and central government, the MPs argue.

Such a strategy should encompass a clear assessment of the state of the environment and identify the work needed to fill gaps in data.

They also recommend that the government map appropriate policy levers to each environmental area and reconsider the scope for hypothecation of environmental taxes to channel money into environmental protection programmes.

An independent office for environmental responsibility should be created to oversee this work, it said.

The committee acknowledged progress in some areas, including the creation of the natural capital committee, but added that it needed to be put on a permanent footing.

Chair of the committee Joan Walley MP said that all political parties should use the report as both a “wake-up call” and a template for measures that are needed.

“Consistent action by successive governments will help ensure that the benefits of nature are available to future generations as much as they are to ours,” she said.

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