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‘Worrying’ trends remain unchecked

Government not demonstrably on track to met a single environmental target, says watchdog
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Large stormwater pipe to the sea

A new report from the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) reveals the government is falling ‘far short’ on delivering its 25 year plan to improve the environment, and states that opportunities to change course must be taken.

The independent assessment measured progress against the government’s Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP) for England (2021/2022).

’Driving off a cliff-edge’

Of the 32 trends assessed across the breadth of the natural environment, nine trends were improving, 11 were static and eight were deteriorating.

None of the 23 environmental targets assessed revealed the government’s progress was demonstrably on track.

‘What use is a roadmap if you’re hellbent on driving off a cliff-edge? A 25 year environment plan is all well and good on paper, but this government has been utterly failing to take the essential action to protect nature.

‘With a general election just around the corner, the public wants urgent steps to stop sewage pumping into rivers, tackle the scourge of plastic pollution, curb the destructive fishing emptying our seas and clean up the air we breathe.

‘Back in 2019 when this government was elected, it promised ‘the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth.’ If that were true, the earth would be in even more trouble.

‘With a new generation of voters saying climate and the environment is of critical importance to them, time’s running out for Sunak’s government to have anything other than hollow promises to show for its time in office come the election.’

Head of politics at Greenpeace UK

A refreshed EIP

The report identifies a number of key themes to help improve future delivery of the EIP.

These include: better alignment and co-ordination at all levels of government, local and national, with actions that extend beyond Defra; better targeted and timely data collection and collation, with the goals of the EIP in mind; and improved assessment of progress, with a purpose-driven monitoring, evaluation and learning framework. 

‘Progress on delivery of the 25 Year Environment Plan has fallen far short of what is needed to meet government’s ambition to leave the environment in a better state for future generations. 

‘There have been recent improvements in air quality and people’s engagement with nature, as Covid lockdowns changed the way we live our lives. But many extremely worrying environmental trends remain unchecked, including a chronic decline in species abundance.

‘Our assessment shows that the current pace and scale of action will not deliver the changes necessary to significantly improve the environment in England. But there is clear opportunity to change course. 

‘At the end of this month government is due to publish a refreshed EIP. We hope that the advice given in our previous monitoring report, published in May last year, will have been influential.

‘This is a key opportunity to make meaningful cross-government plans to protect, restore and improve the environment, with a true focus on delivery. That plan must then be regularly refined and adapted, taking into account evidence on what needs to improve.’

OEP chair

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