This is not a good enough excuse for such serious delays.
“Painfully slow” progress has been made by the UK Government in tackling environmental problems such as air pollution and wildlife loss, MPs have warned.
Nine years after the government pledged to be the first generation to leave England’s natural environment in a better state than it inherited, progress to meet the goal has been “disappointing”, the Public Accounts Committee said.
A report from the parliamentary committee warned the government did not have a good grasp of the total cost of meeting its green goals, and funding for measures to improve the natural environment had been “piecemeal”.
And environmental impacts are not being taken into account in spending decisions, the MPs on the committee warned.
The next comprehensive spending review should include analysis showing how the value of environmental impacts has been taken into account, and the impact of spending decisions on meeting long-term environmental goals.
It is not clear how much of an additional £1 billion given to the Environment Department (Defra) in the last spending review was genuinely new money, the report said.
The 25-year environment plan, published in 2018, to help the Government meet its 2011 pledge to improve the natural environment in a generation does not have a coherent set of long-term objectives, milestones to meet them or a full range of indicators to track progress.
The report said: “Progress in tackling critical environmental issues like air quality, water quality and wildlife loss has been painfully slow.
“While we recognise that environmental issues are complex, this is not a good enough excuse for such serious delays.”
The committee also raised concerns that Defra did not have the clout to lead the rest of government in delivering on the 25-year plan’s aims.
The MPs said they remain to be convinced whether the new green watchdog – the Office for Environmental Protection – could “hit the ground running” after the delay in its creation, or whether it will be sufficiently independent from government.
A Defra spokesperson said: “This government has made significant progress in protecting the natural environment, improving biodiversity, and combatting climate change."
Emily Beament is the PA environment correspondent.