Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Embedding sustainable development across Government

A report published by a parliamentary select committee has warned that Defra is not best placed to ensure that other government departments embed sustainability in their operations and policy making. The cross-party Environmental Audit Committee has called for the Cabinet Office to take more responsibility for driving improvements in sustainability across Government, and has recommended greater support from the Treasury and the Prime Minister.

Next year funding will be withdrawn from the Sustainable Development Commission, the government's watchdog on green issues. The committee raised concerns that the loss of its experience and resources will threaten the government’s green agenda and the sustainability of its policies.

It argues that embedding sustainable development into the policy-making of all departments will help tackle long-term environmental, social and economic issues. In addition, increased resource efficiency can save the government millions towards reducing the budget deficit. But it claims that the government is not set up to capitalise on these potential benefits.

The report recommends creating a new minister for sustainable development, based in the Cabinet Office, whole role would be to hold departments to account when they fail to deliver on green targets. Financial sanctions are also proposed for departments that deliver poor sustainability performance. Without such measures, the committee warns that the government will not be able to keep the commitments made in the Climate Change Act.

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