Of 138 high level targets, 60% have been missed, are unlikely to be achieved, or are worded too vaguely to make a meaningful analysis, according to right-wing think tank Policy Exchange.

Biodiversity, and climate change and energy are the two worst areas, while waste is the sole area where the researchers say a majority of targets will be met and Government policy has undoubtedly made an improvement.

Green Dreams: a Decade of Missed Targets calls for ministers and their counterparts in the opposition parties to set fewer and more achievable targets.

Target setting is too often made without the policy drivers – most notably the finance and interim benchmarking – needed to achieve them, researchers at the think tank concluded.

Tara Singh, head of Policy Exchange’s environment unit and one of the authors of the study, told edie: “I have no doubt that Government had genuine targets for the environment.

“But I think Government underestimated how much policy work needed to go into it. Energy policy, for one, is a nightmare.”

She called for Government, as well as the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, to set more realistic targets and set them over the longer term to give businesses the ability to meet them.

Ms Singh said: “They have got to set far fewer targets and make them genuinely ambitious but set things that are not so aspirational as to be unachievable.”

The report also criticised the changing of targets over time, such as those to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

In one example, the report says the 1999 Pre-Budget Report said Government would reduce C02 emissions by 20% on 1990 levels by 2010, but by 2005 this target had instead been applied to emissions of all greenhouse gases.

“As the targets get closer and closer, instead of being honest and saying we are going to miss it, Government started to spin it a bit,” Miss Singh said.

Kate Martin

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