Government’s SDG implementation ‘a total fail’, says EAC chair

The UK Government's attempts at addressing and implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been labelled "a total fail" by the chair of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) Mary Creagh.

Last year, the EAC accused the UK Government of having “no clear plan” to implement the SDGs, which were agreed by nations in 2015 to set targets to end extreme poverty, tackle climate change and reduce inequality by 2030.

Around 10 months on from the publication of that particular SDG inquiry, Creagh claimed that responses from governmental departments had failed to fill the “donut shaped hole” in place of efforts to actually deliver the goals.

Speaking at a Planet Mark event in London on Thursday (1 February), Creagh claimed that the Department for International Development (DFID) and HMRC were the only two of the 18 governmental departments to directly mention the SDGs as part of departmental plans.

“The UK right now, despite being the sixth biggest economy in the world, is failing to meet the Global Goals,” Creagh said. “We’re failing in our commitment to give our children a healthier, wealthier, more equal and more environmentally stable nation.

“We found only two of the 18 departments bother to mention the SDGs. The Government’s fallen at the first hurdle. So far, it’s not even a D-, it’s a total fail from the Government.”

Research has shown that the Goals could add $12trn to the global economy, but plans to implement them at a national level were derailed by the General Election last year. Creagh had hoped that last month’s cabinet reshuffle would shed some light on improved progress, but response was either non-existent or largely negative.

The EAC, for example, specifically wrote to the new Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington as well as Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds to gain insight of departmental plans for SDGs. Regarding education, Creagh noted that the national curriculum would not be amended to educate on the goals.

Creagh added that current cuts to renewables investment, which declined by 56% last year, put goals related to climate, energy and economic growth at risk. The EAC chair also touched on Carrie Gracie’s resignation from the BBC over an alleged gender pay gap and the NHS being trapped in an “permanent winter” as reasons for concern regarding progress against the goals.

EAC publications

The General Election also delayed the publication of the report which explained how the UK planned to transfer current EU laws on chemicals after Brexit. Commonly referred to as REACH, the legislation calls on companies to register and declare substances being made or used that enter into the UK, with a focus on their environmental impacts.

The report was finally published this week, although MPs have warned the current transfer plans are unlikely to be successful.

The EAC also published a report this week that examines the Justice Department’s approach to sustainability.

The report found that the MoJ, which has the second largest estate in government, had failed to meet its “unambitious” targets, noting that the only two of the department’s 1,493 vehicles were ultra-low emissions. The Chancellor had previously committed to ensuring that 25% of this fleet was low-emission by 2022.

The MoJ did reduce emissions by 28%, exceeding a target scheduled for 2020. However, the report notes that the department reduced its carbon commitment in 2016 to remove any additional working pressures in reaching the carbon goals.

The EAC has also announced that it is launching a short inquiry into the Government’s 25-Year Plan for the Environment. The plan includes a pledge to eliminate all “avoidable” plastic waste by the end of 2042, but as of yet there is no legal obligations behind many of the targets. The Committee is scheduled to hold an oral evidence hearing, followed by a Government hearing.

Matt Mace

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