Government attacked for ‘big claims’ but little action over sustainable development goals

MPs have called for a cabinet-level sustainable development minister post to be created along with an independent advisory body to gauge government progress against ‘global goals’.

It follows an inquiry by the environmental audit select committee that found a lack of leadership from the government and prime minister over sustainable development targets agreed by nations at the UN in 2015.

The ‘global goals’ are aimed at ending extreme poverty, tackling climate change and reducing inequality by 2030.

‘The government has done little to promote the goals and few people have heard of them,’ the committee’s report warned.

It added: ‘While this government makes big claims about what it is doing to deliver the goals internationally, it is doing little at home, leaving a doughnut-shaped hole in place of efforts to implement the goals in the UK.

‘The fact that cabinet-level ministers were not willing to appear before the committee was a worrying sign that this issue is being quietly dropped in government.’

‘No clear plan’

The committee urged the government to start a ‘national conversation’ about sustainable development using the BBC and other media.

It said a new independent advisory body would provide independent, evidence-based advice to the sustainable development minister and prime minister. It would be tasked with auditing government performance against long-term targets enshrined in the goals.

MPs also called for a report to be published setting out how the government intends ‘to take an integrated, cross-government and policy-coherent approach to implementing the goals in the UK’.

The committee said it was concerned that the government had appeared to have ‘changed its mind’ about having a set of national indicators developed by the Office of National Statistics – something MPs warned would be vital to ensuring goals are met.

‘Ours is the generation which can end poverty and ensure that our children inherit a fairer, healthier and more sustainable country. That is what the global goals are all about,’ said Mary Creagh, chair of the committee.

‘As the UK leaves the EU, the government has a once in a generation opportunity to use the global goals to forge a cross-party consensus on sustainable development in the UK.

‘However, the government seems to regard the goals as a developing world issue and has no clear plan to implement them domestically.

‘During this general election campaign, politicians of all parties should show their commitment to ending poverty, violence and hunger here in the UK, so that we can build a “global Britain” where no one is left behind.’

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Austin Macauley

Austin Macauley

Editor, Environment Journal

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