Watchdog barks at government record on environmental targets

24th January 2024


The government is largely “off track” in meeting legally binding targets with nature in danger of “irreversible” decline, according to a highly critical report by the environmental watchdog.

The Office for Environmental Protection’s (OEP) said “urgency” behind positive actions to meet the targets is “frequently lacking”.

Its assessment of 40 individual environmental targets reveals the government is largely on track to achieve four, partially on track to meet 11, and largely off track with ten. The watchdog could not assess progress against a further 15 targets due to a lack of evidence.

The government is on track to meeting targets for specific pollutants and wastewater but largely off track on most EIP goal areas, including residual waste, sustainable fisheries, chemicals and improving nature.

The government is also largely off track in seven goal areas for significantly improving the natural environment, including the apex goal of achieving “thriving plants and wildlife”. It is partially on track to achieving “clean air” and “reducing the risk of harm from environmental hazards”, but in one area, “enhancing beauty, heritage and engagement with the natural environment”, progress could not be assessed due to a lack of evidence.

OEP chair Dame Glenys Stacey called on ministers to speed up, scale up, and stack up their efforts to meet the targets set under the Environment Act 2021 and the Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP),

“Our assessment is that government is largely off track to meet its ambitions and its legal obligations,” she added. “Deeply, deeply concerning adverse environmental trends continue.

“With the depleted state of our natural environment and the unprecedented pace of climate change, it does seem to many that we are at a crossroads. It is not easy for us as a nation to choose the right path, the right trajectory and to travel together at the pace needed, but we simply must.”

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