An environmental scorecard - Environmental Audit Committee Contents


1.  It is not possible to measure precisely whether, as the Prime Minister intended, this is the "greenest Government ever". It is possible however to assess the state of progress in particular areas of the environment. In none of the 10 environmental areas we have examined is satisfactory progress being made despite the necessary urgency. We have assessed biodiversity, air pollution and flooding as 'red' risks, and thus areas of particular concern, in our 'scorecard assessment'. These are areas where the environment has clearly deteriorated since 2010 or where progress has been at a pace unlikely to put improvement on a satisfactory trajectory by the end of the 2015-2020 Parliament. (Paragraph 21)

2.  Data on the state of the environment is available through the Biodiversity 2020 Indicators and the Sustainable Development Indicators, providing a useful insight on progress (and deterioration). There are, however, as the Natural Capital Committee have reported, "crucial evidence gaps relating to the condition of individual natural assets". (Paragraph 26)

3.  Further efforts still need to be made to ensure environmental considerations are also integrated into policy-making, not least because of the commitment and leadership that will be required to engage with the development of the UN global Sustainable Development Goals by 2015. Environmental protection requires natural capital—the ecosystem benefits we get from the environment—to be fully taken into account in Government policy-making, both for existing and future policy programmes. That requires the environment to be measured and valued, and for decision-making to be founded on a clear understanding of how policies may help or harm all aspects of the environment. (Paragraph 55)

4.  Regulation is the essential underpinning of environmental protection. Many of those affected welcome regulation that is strong and consistent because it produces a level playing field and greater certainty for business. The Balance of Competencies review has, in the Government's own words, "increased environmental standards". Regulation has in some areas been supplemented to good effect by public engagement and voluntary approaches. Fiscal measures however have so far been little used as an environmental policy lever. Overall, the range of policy levers has been piecemeal, without any overarching system for identifying how different approaches might best be used to protect different areas of the environment. And there is no system for holding the Government to account for its overall long-term performance across the 10 environmental areas we have examined in this report, nor for reporting progress on such a broad front. (Paragraph 56)

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Prepared 16 September 2014