The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has called for the UK government to “aim high and act now” to ensure it achieves its ambitions for the environment.
In publishing its first monitoring report on the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, the OEP recognises the plan’s ambition but states that progress has been slow.
It presses government now to take stock, and take purposeful, coherent and decisive action so that the environment is restored, protected and enhanced for future generations.
To support this, the report, ‘Taking stock: protecting, restoring and improving the environment in England’, sets out a framework of six ‘building blocks’ that need to be in place.
Given the urgency of the situation our message to government is clear: do not delay in making the changes necessary to protect, restore and improve our environment.
Dame Glenys Stacey, Chair of the OEP, said: “The 25 Year Environment Plan was an ambitious attempt to confront the challenges facing the environment, yet we continue to see worrying and persistent trends of environmental decline. Our rivers are in a poor state, bird and other species numbers are in serious decline, poor air quality threatens the health of many and our seas and sea floor are not managed sustainably.
“Turning this round will certainly not be easy. But the Environment Act and the new tools it provides creates a real opportunity for government to make the difference needed. We press government to use the Act to full effect, to deliver the environmental improvements needed for proper stewardship of the environment.
“Now is the time for a clear and ambitious vision for the environment which is shared and prioritised across all of government.
“Government must aim high, act with greater expediency, and plan well for a sustainable environment, and give this crisis the priority it needs.”
The six ‘building blocks’ identified by the OEP are:
- Understanding environmental drivers and pressures
- Creating a vision
- Setting targets
- Coherent strategy and policy
- Monitoring, assessing and reporting
Under these headings, the OEP makes 16 recommendations to government. These include:
- A comprehensive stocktake of the condition of the environment
- Immediate prioritisation of environmental concerns
- A clear, coherent and evidence-based vision for the 25YEP
- A commitment to the environment and environment strategy across all government departments
- Ambitious long term statutory targets
- Coherence across targets and clarity on how the range of targets in the same policy area relate to each other
- Accountability for the delivery of the 25YEP across government
- All key government strategies and policies that affect the environment must be aligned with government’s ambitions for the environment
- Develop and publish an evidence-based, accessible, consistent and transparent way of assessing progress against the 25YEP objectives
Dame Glenys added: “We want to see government prioritise the environment, ensuring a clear and ambitious vision shared by all government departments. It must set clear goals, ambitious targets and a coherent set of strategies, policies and delivery mechanisms to achieve each goal. It requires strong cross-government governance and accountabilities, with robust evaluation and remedies where measures fail to deliver.
“Given the urgency of the situation our message to government is clear: do not delay in making the changes necessary to protect, restore and improve our environment.”