New metrics system needed to deliver 25-year Environment Plan – NAO

21st January 2019

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Meeting the UK government's ambition to improve the natural world within a generation will require a more effective system for measuring environmental performance.

That is according to a new report from the National Audit Office (NAO), which casts doubt on the way metrics are currently used to inform environmental decision-making.

For example, it highlights how there is no clear responsibility in government for knowing whether initiatives to improve air quality are successful or deliver value for money.

The report also criticises how the UK currently reports on the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), pointing out that at least a third of the published information is at least three years old.

With much environmental monitoring currently carried out by the EU, the NAO urged the government to introduce a robust metrics system to assess environmental progress post-Brexit.

“But the critical tests will be whether all parts of government actually use this information to monitor progress and take action,“ NAO head, Amyas Morse, said.

“Robust performance data and transparent reporting is essential for parliament and the public to hold government to account on its ambition to improve the natural environment within a generation.“

The government already has plans for a new group of performance indicators to measure progress against its 25-year Environment Plan, which the NAO described as “promising“.

However, it warned that the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) had not done enough to engage other parts of the government, or set clear accountabilities for performance.

It also raised concerns about plans for an environmental watchdog post-Brexit, warning that questions might be asked about its independence and ability to enforce the law.

“It will be funded through Defra, with a chair appointed by the secretary of state for Defra,“ the NAO said.

“While in principle this is not incompatible with it being functionally independent, it could bring risks for its independence in practice, or for its perceived independence.“

Image credit: iStock


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