Cross-party committee challenges “Greenest Government Ever”

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) has published a report of an inquiry into the Natural Environment White Paper (NEWP) today, challenging ministers to put nature in the heart of economic decision-making. EFRA is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and its associated public bodies.

The NEWP which was published last year recognises that a healthy natural environment is the foundation of green economic growth and sends a clear message that nature should be fully integrated within all Government departments. However, MPs are concerned that Defra has failed to set out clear plans to deliver its commitment to ensure that government decision-making fully values the services nature provides. Committee Chair, Anne McIntosh MP, said “These ecosystems services are worth billions of pounds to the UK economy and we cannot afford to let government policies ignore them.” Therefore, the Committee calls for stronger leadership from HM Treasury and the Cabinet to achieve the necessary culture shift amongst policy-makers.

The report also concludes that:
• Biodiversity offsetting can deliver positive impacts on the natural environment but Defra must ensure that the long-term benefits from individual schemes are locked in so that habitats are maintained for the future;
• Peat extraction destroys irreplaceable habitats and causes greenhouse gas emissions. The White Paper’s target to end all peat use by 2030 shows a lamentable lack of ambition. A review of progress must be brought forward to 2014;
• Defra must set a target to increase public engagement with nature, since local authorities, NGOs and charities can only secure funding for environmental projects when they can demonstrate measurable success;
• The Department for Health and the Department for Education must define measurements which demonstrate how greater public engagement with nature delivers gains in public health and educational attainment;
• Defra should ensure that the entire coastal path around England is in place within 10 years.

For further information please visit EFRA’s webpage.