Select Committee on Environmental Audit Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 15

Memorandum from the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions

PREPARATIONS FOR THE WORLD SUMMIT ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT (WSSD)

INTRODUCTION

  1.  This Memorandum addresses the points raised in the Annex to the Committee Clerk's letter of 31 January to Dr Alan Whitehead MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, requesting information on how DTLR is contributing to the Government's preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in Johannesburg in September 2002.

  2.  DTLR is playing a full part in contributing to the UK's preparations for the summit and has a particular interest in domestic awareness both of the event and of sustainable development generally.

What input has your department made to the UK preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development?

The Committee is aware that each department is represented on the MISC 18 Ministerial Group on the World Summit on Sustainable Development chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister. Please outline how your department co-ordinates its input to this Committee.

  3.  DTLR has been represented at all MISC 18 meetings so far held. The Department is normally represented at MISC 18 by Dr Whitehead in his role as DTLR Green Minister. Dr Whitehead is supported by a dedicated sustainable development team of officials whose responsibilities include advising on DTLR input to WSSD preparations.

Is MISC 18 the key route by which your department is contributing to the UK preparations for the World Summit?

  4.  MISC 18 is the key route at Ministerial level. At official level, the Department's sustainable development team is represented on WSSD interdepartmental groups. Work of the Group has included the development of a communications strategy for WSSD.

  5.  DTLR is also seeking opportunities to raise awareness of WSSD among domestic audiences: for example, there will be a session on WSSD at the Inner Cities Religious Council (ICRC) meeting on 21 February, when the ICRC Chair (Sally Keeble) and representatives of the Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities will consider how best to engage the faith communities in summit preparations.

  6.  More generally, DTLR is developing its own sustainable development strategy document. We hope to publish the DTLR strategy in the run-up to WSSD, and that it will thus contribute to the wider UK preparations for the summit.

Please outline how far other involvement in the preparations (additional to attendance at MISC 18) came about. For example, was it by request from another department, instigated by your department and/or part of your department's ongoing work?

  7.  DEFRA are taking the lead in co-ordinating preparations for WSSD, and they have encouraged other departments to help stimulate interest about the submit among domestic audiences. The development of DTLR's sustainable development strategy is part of the DTLR's ongoing work.

Please give details of any papers/strategies/other work that your department has prepared to support your contribution to MISC 18 and the UK preparations in general. Has the department carried out or contributed to any special reviews of progress connected to preparations for the Johannesburg summit? Have these been discussed at management board level in your department?

  8.  DTLR is contributing to the preparations in a number of ways, both directly and indirectly:

    —  DTLR, together with DEFRA and the Department of Health, has been developing an integrated policy appraisal (IPA) methodology. The IPA identifies a series of impact categories, covering the range of environmental, economic and social impacts, against which a proposed policy may need to be appraised. The appraisal tool will be of interest to policy makers both within and beyond the UK, in that it can be used to assess the sustainable development impacts of a wide range of policy proposals. The IPA methodology has been discussed at management board level and with DTLR Ministers.

    —  DTLR has contributed to the Government's annual report on sustainable development, to be published in March. The report will set out the latest position on the sustainable development indicators contained in "Quality of Life Counts".

    —  Once the Department has finalised its sustainable development strategy it will be made available to MISC 18, as well as to ENV(G). The strategy will be discussed at management board level and will be approved by DTLR Ministers.

Has the Department actively publicised the preparations for the World Summit and its own involvement?

  9.  In addition to the ICRC meeting mentioned above, DTLR will continue to seek opportunities to publicise both the summit and sustainable development issues more generally. For example, we have drawn the summit to the attention of the Women's Transport Network (facilitated by DTLR and consisting of several hundred contacts both in the UK and overseas).

Please set out which sustainable development indicators your department has lead responsibility for and which other indicators the department's policies particularly impact upon.

  10.  Please see the two tables in the attached Annex.

What system does your department have in place to monitor progress on how far the department's policies are contributing to UK progress on sustainable development and the issues that were mapped out in Agenda 21 after the Rio Earth Summit in 1992?

  11.  The Departmental Annual Report describes progress on meeting the Department's PSA targets. Each PSA target relates to one of the sustainable development indicators in the UK strategy.

  12.  Before the machinery of Government changes following the 2001 General Election, DTLR's predecessor (the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions) took the lead in drawing up the UK's sustainable development strategy "A Better Quality of Life", published in May 1999. The strategy committed the Government to reporting annually on progress towards sustainable development as a whole. The strategy, the first annual report (for 2000) and the forthcoming second annual report (for 2001) together comprise a comprehensive statement on how the Government is monitoring progress and meeting the challenge of sustainable development. DTLR has contributed fully to the forthcoming second annual report, particularly those sections of it dealing with the three headline indicators for which the Department has direct responsibility.

  13.  In addition, many DTLR (and previously DETR) activities contribute to the issues mapped out in Agenda 21. Progress on those issues were included in the Government report "Review and Assessment of progress made by the United Kingdom in the implementation of Agenda 21 at National and Regional Levels", published in September 2001.

  14.  The Department will be considering what further monitoring and evaluation systems may be necessary, as part of the development of the DTLR sustainable development strategy.

  15.  DTLR is supporting the implementation of the new duty on all principal local authorities to prepare community strategies. The duty was introduced by the Local Government Act 2000, which requires that these strategies must contribute to the achievement of sustainable development in the United Kingdom. This initiative builds on the success of Local Agenda 21, which was a major outcome of the Rio Earth Summit, by seeking to ensure that sustainable development is mainstreamed into all aspects of local authority activities, and those of their local partners. The Act also introduced a very broad enabling power for local authorities to undertake activities which promote the economic, social and environmental well being of their area.

  16.  Last December's Local Government White Paper, "Strong Local Leadership—Quality Public Service", reiterated that community leadership is based upon the delivery of sustainable development. It stated that the provision of economic infrastructure, development of social capital and enhancement of the environmental quality must not be considered as separate goals but addressed simultaneously. It also stressed local authorities' key role in making strategic choices for future generations and not just dealing with immediate interests and issues. The White Paper also emphasised the inter-dependency of communities, and that local authorities are best placed to link local problems and solution with national and international priorities. To evaluate the success of this approach, DTLR recently announced revised Best Value Performance Indicators against which local authorities will report in 2002-03. Best Value Indicator 1 asks about each authority's community strategy, including whether there are mechanisms for measuring economic, social and environmental progress against short and long term outcomes.

February 2002



 
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