UK lacks clear plan for environmental targets, NAO warns
The UK government has failed to set a course for developing a comprehensive set of objectives and delivery plans for its environmental goals, the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned.
In a report published today, the NAO said that the government's 25 Year Environment Plan remains a mixture of aspirations and policy commitments with “varying and unclear timescales”.
For example, plans have been developed to improve air quality and reduce waste, but a timetable has not been set for working out whether enough is being done to meet environmental goals as a whole, or how much it might cost to meet these ambitions.
This creates a risk that funding decisions are made in a “piecemeal way”, according to the report, which urges ministers to ensure that targets are part of a coherent set of objectives, with measurable outcomes for 2030 and 2040.
“The government wants this to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in England in a better state than it inherited,” said Gareth Davies, head of the NAO. “However, it is now nine years since the government set this ambition and it still does not have the right framework to achieve it.”
The report also claims that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' (Defra) approach to monitoring and reporting progress against its environmental goals has “some serious gaps”.
While it has increased the scope of its environmental reporting, it does not expect to have complete data to measure overall performance against its goals until 2024 at the earliest.
The NAO urged Defra to report against a comprehensive set of milestones, to track how it has responded to recommendations from the new Office for Environmental Protection, and to monitor annual cross-government spending.
It also recommended that Defra develop a strategy to address skill and resource gaps, which should include an analysis of how to ensure delivery partners have the funds to meet their responsibilities, and the factors leading to a high turnover of senior departmental staff.
“Some progress has been made on elements of the Environment Plan but significant action is needed across national and local government, working with business and the public, if the environmental goals are to be met,” Davies added.
Read the full report here: bit.ly/3khgVuZ
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Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM