Sustainable Development panel hands UK government its final wish list

The UK Panel on Sustainable Development has published its final report. It lists its final wishes and reviews Government's progress on recommendations the panel has issued since its formation in 1994.

The Sixth Report from the Panel on Sustainable Development also suggests areas it believes its successor, the forthcoming Commission on Sustainable Development, should focus on. They are:

  • improved analysis of the costs of environmental policy
  • how the UK will cope with the effects of climate change
  • improvements in waste management and disposal, including radioactive waste
  • work on fresh water quality
  • increasing the amount of energy coming from renewable sources

The report also offers the Government new recommendations. The panel would like to see:

  • acknowledgement by the Government that carbon sequestration can only “play a small part in reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and therefore can only make a small contribution to an overall strategy to combat the deleterious effects of climate change”
  • reform of the World Trade Organisation to ensure that environmental impacts are taken into account when global trade liberalisation rules are agreed (see separate article in the European section of this edition of edie news)
  • improvements in the efficacy of anti-noise pollution legislation and “more recognition by the Government that noise can have a detrimental impact on quality of life”
  • open exploration and debate on the ethics of genetic modification with a view to developing clear policies to pursue within the EU and at an international level
  • action to protect global fish stocks, with the panel suggesting, once again, that the Government back “the creation of an Inter-Governmental Panel on the Oceans”

The panel also looked back over recommendations contained within earlier reports and reviewed the Government’s progress. It reiterated that it would like to see a pesticide tax – something the Government has decided not to pursue in the near future (see separate story in this edition of edie news).

Panel members expressed frustration that environmental accounting developed by the Office for National Statistics is not being linked to national accounts such as the GDP (see related story). The Panel would like to see progress toward sustainable development measured more accurately and to be published alongside traditional economic growth measurements like the GNP/GDP.

The Government’s failure to issue guidance on green procurement policy is also criticised by the panel.

Housing, land-use planning and ‘green’ architectural design and use of materials are all areas where more progress is needed, according to the panel. On the issue of land-use planning, the panel urges the Government to apply VAT to development of greenfield sites and to remove it from the refurbishment of existing building – a change to the taxation system that has long been promoted by campaigners eager to see less housing built on greenfields.

With regard to transport, the panel says only what everyone else has said: that progress on the Government’s Integrated Transport Policy has been painfully slow.

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