Treasury criticised over environmental budgets

20th July 2016

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Public sector ,
  • Central government ,
  • Politics & Economics ,
  • England


Morag Hart

The Treasury did not make the most of the opportunity to encourage government departments to work together on environmental issues when finalising the 2015 spending review, according to an independent assessment.

The findings come from the National Audit Office (NAO), which had been asked by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) to provide an overview of government policy on adapting to climate change, and the role of the Treasury in relation to sustainable development and environmental protection.

Spending reviews give departments the scope to put forward information on environmental risks, impacts and obligations in their bids for funds, and, as part of the 2015 process, the Treasury asked Defra, Decc (now BEIS) and the DfT to provide a summary of the impact of their bids on national carbon targets. It also advised departments to consider climate change, energy, fuel poverty and air quality legislation when finalising their bids.

The ONS found that Defra performed particularly well. It reviewed 10 of 112 capital bids by Defra and found that environmental benefits were highlighted and a range of environmental impacts were included in calculations of the cost–benefit case, although some tangential environmental impacts were not flagged in the bid summaries.

The Treasury requested and received ‘carbon returns’ from departments with the most material impacts on emissions to assess the cumulative impact on carbon budgets. Coordinated bids relating to air quality and for projects intended to address carbon reduction, such as the Office for Low Emission Vehicles and the International Climate Fund, were more common in 2015 than in 2010.

However, the Treasury did not make the most of the opportunity to encourage departments to work across government on environmental issues, the ONS found. ‘HM Treasury could have done more to establish strong incentives for collaboration on environmental matters. For example, by signalling to departments that it would review carbon reduction proposals as a package, and by engaging more extensively with cross-government groups involved in planning for carbon budgets to do so,’ it said.

The ONS also pointed out that developing a cross-government view of the impact of the spending review on biodiversity would have provided useful information on the cumulative impact of bids on habitats and wildlife preservation, and prompted greater collaboration between departments on such issues.

Overall there was clear improvement in the consideration of environmental issues across government compared to the 2010 spending review, with evidence that spending proposals drew on existing cross-government coordination, the ONS acknowledged.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

How much is too much?

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

Five of the latest books on the environment and sustainability

3rd April 2024

Read more

The UK’s major cities lag well behind their European counterparts in terms of public transport use. Linking development to transport routes might be the answer, argues Huw Morris

3rd April 2024

Read more

Ben Goodwin reflects on policy, practice and advocacy over the past year

2nd April 2024

Read more

A hangover from EU legislation, requirements on the need for consideration of nutrient neutrality for developments on many protected sites in England were nearly removed from the planning system in 2023.

2nd April 2024

Read more

It’s well recognised that the public sector has the opportunity to work towards a national net-zero landscape that goes well beyond improving on its own performance; it can also influence through procurement and can direct through policy.

19th March 2024

Read more

The UK government’s carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) strategy is based on optimistic techno-economic assumptions that are now outdated, Carbon Tracker has warned.

13th March 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close