The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has published its annual progress report, showing the Government remains largely off track to meets its environmental ambitions and must speed up and scale up its efforts in order to achieve them.

The OEP report provides an assessment of government’s progress towards legally-binding environmental targets and the goals of its Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP).  It covers the period 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023. It also includes content on selected cross-cutting themes, such as nature-friendly farming, and a more in-depth assessment focused on government’s apex goal of achieving ‘thriving plants and wildlife’.

The OEP’s assessment of 40 individual environmental targets, including legally binding targets set under the Environment Act 2021, found government is largely on track to achieve four, partially on track to achieve 11, and largely off track to achieve ten. It was not possible to assess progress against a further 15 targets due to a lack of sufficient evidence. Targets where government is largely on track relate to specific pollutants and wastewater. Targets where government is largely off track span most EIP goal areas and include residual waste, sustainable fisheries, chemicals and improving nature.

The OEP’s assessment of 51 recent environmental trends found that 25 trends are improving, ten are static, eight are deteriorating and eight could not be assessed due to a lack of data. Most progress has been made on reducing some environmental pressures – such as emissions of some air pollutants, greenhouse gases and chemical pollutants.

The report identifies factors impeding progress:

  • Key policies, strategies and regulatory frameworks are announced and anticipated, but not then developed or delivered. For example, major initiatives, such as a Chemicals Strategy and a Land Use Framework, are long awaited. This creates uncertainty, presents barriers to progress, and results in missed opportunities.
  • Actions are not addressing all major pressures. For example, for water quality, commitments to investment have increased substantially in some but not all areas of need.
  • Resources are not always allocated as needed, even when tools and actions are well understood. For example, there is an approach in place for tackling invasive non-native species, but resources are inadequate to implement actions at the scale required to achieve desired outcomes.
  • The urgency with which positive actions are being implemented is frequently lacking. For example, the current rate of tree planting needs to substantially increase to achieve woodland creation goals.

The report reaffirms the key recommendations the OEP made following last year’s assessment of progress, and makes further detailed recommendations for each goal area of the EIP. The key recommendations are that government should:

  • implement the Environmental Improvement Plan 2023 effectively
  • develop and implement clear and effective governance
  • develop and implement delivery plans
  • set and vigorously pursue clear and achievable interim targets
  • develop and implement an effective monitoring, evaluation and learning framework

Covered in Tne Guardian ‘Nature in England at risk due to government failures, says environment watchdog’.

No Comment

Comments are closed.