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WATCH: OEP slams UK Government for ‘largely off track’ climate goals

The independent Office for Environmental Protection [OEP] has published its annual report into Britain’s progress on key climate targets.

red and white stop sign

Covering the period 1st April 2022 to 31st March 2023, the analysis has concluded that more must urgently be done to correct the country’s current trajectory, with the Government ‘largely off track’ to realise its green ambitions. 

Looking at 40 targets relating to the environment and sustainability, many of which are now legally binding within the Environment Act 2021, good progress has been made on just four. A further 11 were deemed to be ‘partially on track’, while 10 needed to be put back on course or risk being missed completely. Worryingly, a further 15 could not be audited due to a lack of sufficient evidence. 

Pollutants and wastewater were among the areas Downing Street was considered to be doing well on. Meanwhile, serious concern was raised over issues including residual waste, sustainable fisheries, chemicals and nature protection, biodiversity net gain, and habitat restoration.

When assessing 51 recent environmental trends, the situation looked similarly troubling. According to the OEP, 25 of these are improving, 10 are ‘static’, eight deteriorating and another eight could not be assessed due to problems with data availability. The areas in which most progress had been made fall under ‘environmental pressures’ such as air pollutants, greenhouse gases and chemical pollutants. When seen in the context of the 10 core aims of the UK’s Environmental Improvement Plan [EIP], it was concluded that seven showed ‘mixed progress’, and three had seen ‘limited progress’.

‘This is a damning assessment from the OEP. Clearly the Government’s environmental plans are too vague, too weak and too late to meet both its own commitments and the promises it made to the world last year,’ said Alec Taylor, Head of Policy (Production) at the environmental charity WWF. ‘This should be a wakeup call for the Government to produce a much stronger national plan for meeting the global nature goals it signed up to, and save the precious nature we all depend on. In this election year every political party needs to up their ambition and clearly show how they will bring our world back to life.’

In particular, the following obstacles to climate gains were identified:

*Key policies, strategies and regulatory frameworks is announced, anticipated, but not developed or delivered 

*Actions fail to address all major pressures

*Resources are not allocated as necessary 

*Pressing needs are identified, but rarely acted upon with urgency

‘While some progress has been made, substantial challenges remain. Our assessment is that government is largely off track to meet its ambitions and its legal obligations,’ said Dame Glenys Stacey, Chair of the OEP. ‘Deeply, deeply concerning adverse environmental trends continue. With the depleted state of our natural environment and the unprecedented pace of climate change, it does seem to many that we are at a crossroads. It is not easy for us as a nation to choose the right path, the right trajectory and to travel together at the pace needed, but we simply must.

‘Transparency is key. So far, government has not been clear enough about how its ambitions will be delivered– about all that is to be done in each goal area, and against each statutory target, when, and by whom,’ she continued. ‘Delivery bodies, local government, businesses and the environment sector need to know in full, what part they must play. In our view, government must do more to set out for Parliament, the public and all those who must play a role in this how it intends to deliver its ambition.’

More on climate change and net zero: 

Emerging marketing challenges for sustainability organisations in 2024

Robots used to maintain gas pipes could monitor biodiversity

World Economic Forum opens global GovTech centre for public sector collaboration

Image: Kind and Curious

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