Embedding sustainable development across Government, after the Secretary of State's announcement on the future of the Sustainable Development Commission - Environmental Audit Committee Contents

4 A New Sustainable Development Strategy

74. Evidence from Dr John Turnpenny and others at the University of East Anglia, and Dr Duncan Russel from the University of Exeter, explained that efforts at improving sustainable development in government have broken down because of a lack of co-ordination between policies. Targets, monitoring and guidance have been established in an ad hoc manner, and not enough attention has been given to ensuring that they interact positively with one another.[84] There is overlap and contradiction between sustainable development monitoring and other cross-cutting themes such as climate change, particularly in SOGE reporting. More needs to be done to take a strategic view, for example in linking impact assessments with long-term departmental strategies such as departmental carbon reduction targets.

75. Government's last Sustainable Development Strategy Securing the Future was published in 2005. It confirmed the then Government's ongoing commitment to address sustainability, updating its previous strategy and responding to the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. It strengthened the SDC's role as Government's watchdog on sustainable development. It focused the efforts of departments in improving their performance on sustainability through the SOGE framework, requiring departmental Sustainable Development Action Plans and establishing networks to share best practice and innovative approaches.

76. Cutting the SDC's funding, and bringing into Government the responsibility for monitoring and encouraging sustainable development, now necessitates that the Government provide a new strategic underpinning for the Coalition Government's commitment to the importance of sustainable development as an overarching goal of Government policy-making. The 2005 Sustainable Development Strategy was a sound basis for action, but this strategy requires an urgent update.

77. A new strategy would give the UK more weight at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2012 ('Rio + 20') and in developing an EU sustainable development strategy. The Secretary of State told us that the UK hopes to play a leading role in joining up negotiations on climate change, biodiversity and poverty.[85] Defra's submission to the Summit's questionnaires states that 'Defra is playing a key role in [the UK Government becoming the greenest government ever] by ensuring sustainable development and natural value are factored in to everything we do; this will ensure eyes are fixed firmly on the long term in relation to the economy, the environment and society'. However, WWF saw the disappearance of the SDC as a particular worry, at a time when the world community is beginning preparations for 'Rio + 20'.[86] Dr Russel added:

[...]it's not just the UK [...] on this earth, [sustainable development] requires action by other states. Now, if the UK is seen to be running backwards rather than going forwards, then that doesn't send a very positive message out to other nations and other states about embedding sustainable development into policymaking processes.[87]

78. Sustainable development policy and programmes have suffered from being ad hoc in nature. A more strategic view needs to be taken. The components of a new architecture for embedding sustainable development in Government need to be brought together in a new sustainable development strategy. A new Sustainable Development Strategy should be developed to revitalise Government engagement on this essential foundation for all policy-making. It could link sustainable development into other overarching policy themes, like localism and climate change. A new Strategy should set milestones for the development of important sustainable development programmes including putting sustainable development more firmly in the Green Book and developing well-being measures. It should make clear the remits and responsibilities of all departments as well as the leadership architecture for sustainable development, including the role of 'central departments' and any new cabinet committee. It should also set out how the possible use of sanctions by those central departments could be used to encourage better performance by departments.

84   Ev 60 Back

85   Oral evidence taken before the Environmental Audit Committee on 10 November 2010, HC 576, Qq 31-2 Back

86   Q 162 Back

87   Ibid. Back

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