Embedding sustainable development across Government, after the Secretary of State’s announcement on the future of the Sustainable Development Commission

Written evidence submitted by Frank Kennedy, member of Ormskirk and District Friends of the Earth (ESD 16)

I wish to make this very brief submission as a member of Ormskirk and District Friends of the Earth.

1.  As a voluntary local group, we have only this week become aware of the consultation and as today is the deadline for responses we are unable to make a fully considered response.

2.  I am aware that North West Environment is considering a response to the consultation, and indeed have encouraged this body to do so.  In my experience, the standpoint of NWEL would carry the confidence of a great many local community organisations which are passionate about the environment and sustainability, as NWEL is an alliance of most of the major voluntary environmental organisations across NW England (including Friends of the Earth regionally).

3.  As the resources of NWEL are so slim and the bulk of its work is done on a voluntary basis, it has not been possible to convene members to give due consideration to this consultation before today's deadline.  However, I believe that the outcomes of its forthcoming conference on 27 October (on the theme of The Big Society) will valuably inform your Committee.  Ormskirk Friends of the Earth strongly recommends that you take such NWEL representation into consideration, as we are sure that your deliberations will not have concluded by the time you receive it. 

4.  We are seriously concerned that the abolition of the SDC will remove a valid independent voice from the vicinity of Government and tempt future Ministers, Civil Service heads and political advisers  to distance themselves from the "inconvenience" of advice that conflicts with their short-term political or operational interests.

5.  However, we note and appreciate the Government's commitment to the inclusion of local, voluntary and community sector involvement in decision-making and implementing.  In this spirit, we urge you to show the flexibility that would allow a broad base of voluntary environmental carers' views to be taken into consideration [see point 3].

6.  In our local area of Ormskirk, West Lancashire, we have anecdotal evidence that a great many businesses and organisations are supportive of the principles of sustainable development as we see them: a linking of our social, economic and environmental needs and benefits - and a rejection of the all too common "trading off" approach which further compromises our future.  For example, a local charity North West Ecological Trust is seeking permission to erect a wind turbine which will reduce carbon emissions (powering the Gorse Hill nature reserve site - itself a notable conservation project) while promoting job opportunities, volunteering and skills acquisition, and an increase in local food growing.

7.  We would conclude that the imperative for Government - however this is structurally organised - is to provide the information and genuine incentives for public, private and community organisations, large and small, to achieve economic and social goals only in ways which reduce carbon emissions in line with IPCC and Tyndall Centre findings, and halt the planet-threatening loss of biodiversity and finite mineral resources.  Equally, Government, alongside international partners, must provide and enforce effective deterrent penalties to prevent unsustainable conduct - public, corporate and private.

13 October 2010