Select Committee on Environmental Audit Ninth Report



1. Over the past decade the Government has failed to rise fully to the domestic challenge of climate change. Its likely failure to reach its domestic target on reducing CO2 emissions is bad in terms of not only the actual release of greenhouse gases, but also because it will have a damaging impact on the UK's international leadership role in reaching a post-Kyoto agreement.

2. The organic process by which the Government has sought to address climate change has led to a confusing framework that cannot be said to promote effective action on reducing emissions. There is now a need for a strategic review of Government action to ensure that the leadership and responsibility for the development and delivery of climate change mitigation and adaptation policies is clear. This is especially important given the myriad different bodies involved. In addition to this it is essential to develop a new long-term policy framework to ensure that policies introduced today do not undermine our ability to reduce emissions in the future. This must include an impact policy framework, to help the UK to adapt to the future impacts of climate change. This is particularly important given the Government's plans dramatically to increase house building. It would be disastrous if, as a result of inappropriate planning today, new developments become the 'climate slums' of tomorrow.

3. Although the Government has introduced some new arrangements for co-ordinating climate change policy more effectively across Whitehall, the scale of the challenge and the complexity involved in radically restructuring the economy to bring about the needed emission reduction targets requires further changes. Therefore we recommend that a new and authoritative body be established within the Cabinet Office to drive forward policy and to diminish the potential for a conflict of objectives between departments.

4. We have heard throughout the course of this inquiry that professional skills, such as project management, are still lacking within the civil service. Failure to address these skill shortages in the civil service will undermine attempts to move the UK to a low carbon economy. The civil service must ensure that climate change is addressed effectively across Whitehall. We recommend that the performance assessment of suitable civil servants should be such that it rewards those working practices that will be required to tackle climate change, such as cross-departmental working. We also recommend that performance-related pay is linked to delivering climate change policy.

These recommendations will create a more effective framework for dealing with the climate change challenge, but this framework will not reduce emissions by itself. It will also take the leadership of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet to address the Government's failure so far to match its aspirations with actual achievements on emissions reductions. Ultimately proof of the Government's commitment to sustainable development and climate change will be seen in the decisions it takes and the policies it delivers.

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Prepared 29 October 2007