Updated Jan 24, 2023

UK government fails to deliver on Environmental Improvement Plan promises

The UK's own post-Brexit watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) which was created to keep the government in check over its environmental performance, has just published a damning report in relation to the progress made in the pledges set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan.

The 25 Year Environment Plan was produced in 2018 by the Conservative government under Michael Gove, who was the Secretary of State for the Environment at the time, to deliver a cleaner environment in rural areas as well as cities, protect biodiversity and provide richer wildlife habitats.

According to the OEP, the measures implemented so far in relation to improving the natural environment, as set out in the Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP), in England have "fallen far short" of what was expected, and opportunities to change course must be taken. The newly published report states that across 32 trends that were assessed throughout different areas of the natural environment, nine were improving, eleven were static and eight were deteriorating. 

The areas that were improved, however some in limited ways, include:

  • clean air;
  • mitigating and adapting to climate change;
  • enhanced beauty;
  • heritage; and
  • engagement with the natural environment.

The areas of the policy that were found to deteriorate or display little or no change include:

  • minimising waste;
  • enhanced biosecurity;
  • thriving plants and wildlife;
  • clean water; and
  • sustainable and efficient use of resources.

Additionally, the OEP criticised the government that a lot of the data that is needed to monitor the improvements is not available, or not up-to-date, with some latest records on performance indicators, such as mitigating and adapting to climate change, reaching back to 2019.

The chair of OEP, Dame Glenys Stacey, said: "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."

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