An environmental scorecard - Environmental Audit Committee Contents


5.  Government must commit to improve the situation in all environmental areas, if not in this Parliament then over the term of the next. (Paragraph 21)

6.  The Government, as we have recommended previously, should put the Natural Capital Committee on a permanent footing to allow it to continue to co-ordinate a programme to improve environmental monitoring data. The Government should use the development of the UN Sustainable Development Goals as an opportunity to identify any data gaps and inconsistencies between databases, to produce a single dataset on the state of the environment. This would … provide a key component of an urgently required overarching Environment Strategy. (Paragraph 26)

7.  The Government should strengthen systems currently focussed on embedding sustainable development and extend them to explicitly address environmental and natural capital risks. Specifically, it should renew its programme for auditing and improving departments' compliance with impact assessment and policy evaluation guidelines, and include in the review of departments' business plans an explicit scrutiny of potential environmental harms. (Paragraph 55)

8.  To help bring the required leadership to environmental protection across Government and beyond, the Government should establish an overarching Environment Strategy to:

·  set out strategic principles to guide the action needed to improve the quality of protection over the next 5, 10 and 25 years;

·  include the actions and good practices required in local government (for example in formulating new Local Plans), as well as the actions needed in central Government to help bring those changes about;

·  facilitate a more informed discussion between central and local government about environment resource funding requirements for local authorities;

·  encompass a clear assessment of the state of the environment including in each of the 10 environmental areas covered in our report;

·  identify the research and analysis work that needs to be done and coordinated to fill gaps in the data that that such assessment requires;

·  map appropriate policy levers to each environmental area and set out a clear statement on the place of regulation, public engagement and fiscal incentives as complementary measures. Such a Strategy should involve, for example, a reconsideration of the scope for greater hypothecation of environmental taxes to support expenditure on environmental protection programmes;

·  identify how Government, local authorities and the wider community could co-operate to develop consensus on the actions needed; and

·  set out how environmental and equality considerations will be addressed and reconciled in infrastructure and other policy areas across all Government departments. (Paragraph 57)

9.  As we have previously recommended, the Government should extend the remit of the Natural Capital Committee beyond 2015 to allow it to reach its full potential and the Government should implement the NCC's proposal for a 25 year plan. But this will not on its own be sufficient to drive environmentally protective Government action. The government should set up an independent body—an 'office for environmental responsibility'—whether by adjusting the NCC's remit or creating a new organisation, to:

·  review the Environment Strategy we advocate;

·  advise Government on appropriate targets, including in each of the 10 environmental areas we have examined;

·  advise Government on policies, both those in Government programmes and new ones that could be brought forward to support the environment;

·  advise Government about the adequacy of the resources (in both central and local government) made available for delivering the Strategy, and

·  monitor performance against such targets and regularly publish the results (or publish its audit of such an assessment produced by the Government itself).

The proposals for legislation from the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts would address much of this necessary agenda, which we therefore commend to the Government in this Parliament or, given the proximity to the Election, the next. (Paragraph 58)

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Prepared 16 September 2014