117. The institutional arrangements in the UK for
supporting the national sustainable development strategy and the
greening government initiative (policy-making and housekeeping)
are set out below.
118. Across Government, progress is fostered by:
A Cabinet sub-committee
chaired by the DPM (ENV). This body does not meet very often which
is a sign of the marked consensus round Whitehall on these issuesaccording
to the Environment Minister
A network of 'Green' ministers (champions
of greening government and sustainable development in each department)
supported by a network of officials. This group does meet as a
committee, chaired by the Environment Minister, three times a
year (ministerial attendance varies) to share best practice and
to consider progress. Green Ministers report publicly once a year.
These reports are expected to describe progress and set further
targets and commitments for the year ahead.
The Sustainable Development Unit within
the DETR which exists to support green ministers and as a pan-governmental
resource for advice on sustainable development and greening government
119. As mentioned above the Government has produced
a Sustainable Development Strategy for the UK which sets out objectives,
priorities and principles as well as the main policies that it
expects to deliver a more sustainable pattern of development.
Throughout the strategy key actions and commitments are listed.
Alongside the strategy a set of sustainable development indicators,
including 15 key "headline" indicators were produced
so that progress may be tracked.
120. The National Assembly for Wales has a duty to
establish and report on a sustainable development strategy for
Wales. The Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament have
put in place arrangements to encourage sustainable development.
Regional Development Agencies have a duty to contribute to sustainable
development in their areas.
121. The Local Government Act 2000 establishes a
power for local authorities to "do anything which they consider
is likely to achieve any one or more of the following objects:
(a) the promotion or improvement of the economic wellbeing
of their area, (b) the promotion or improvement of the social
wellbeing of their area, and (c) the promotion or improvement
of the environmental wellbeing of their area."
The Act also requires that every "local authority must prepare
a strategy (a 'community strategy') for promoting or improving
the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of their
area and contributing to the achievement of sustainable development
in the United Kingdom."
It is likely that these strategies could build, where relevant,
on existing Local Agenda 21 strategies.
122. The sustainable development strategy, A better
quality of life, heralded a Sustainable Development Commission
to monitor progress. On 24 October 2000 the Prime Minister announced
the Commission and its term of reference which are: to advocate
sustainable development across all sectors in the UK, review progress
towards it, and build consensus on the actions needed if further
progress is to be achieved. Its specific objectives will be to:
review how far
sustainable development is being achieved in the UK in all relevant
fields, and identify any relevant processes or policies which
may be undermining this;
identify important unsustainable trends
which will not be reversed on the basis of current or planned
action, and recommend action to reverse the trends;
deepen understanding of the concept of
sustainable development, increase awareness of the issues it raises,
and build agreement on them;
encourage and stimulate good practice.
The Commission covers the whole of the UK subsuming
the former Government Panel and Round Table. It is a non-statutory,
non-departmental public body jointly sponsored by the DETR and
the Cabinet Office and reporting to the Prime Minister. We considered
the reports of the Panel and the Round Table to be valuable tools
in considering the Government's contribution to sustainable development
and we look forward to working with the Commission.
123. Obviously within Parliament this Committee exists
specifically to look at the Government's progress towards sustainable
development but equally each Government department of course has
its own related select committee charged with scrutinising that
department's expenditure, administration and policies.
124. It seems clear that environmental audit and
sustainable development performance measures are receiving more
and more attention around the world. This is inevitable as attention
moves from getting the ball rolling to a desire to check on progress
in a systematic way.
125. We recommend that the UK Government, in concert
with like-minded member states, urges the UN Commission on Sustainable
Development (UNCSD) to make 'measuring national performance' a
theme of reporting progress on Agenda 21 at Rio+10 in 2002. We
also recommend that the Government pushes for national information
and best practice on audit, monitoring and progress-chasing to
be collected, analysed and disseminated by the UNCSD.
126. We recommend that the International Organisation
of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) should be invited by UNCSD
to contribute to the examination of how best to measure progress
on sustainable development through its environmental audit working
128 In common with many audit institutions the European
Court of Auditors may examine spending in any policy area and
has reported on environmental issues on a number of occasions,
the most recent being on greening the Common Agricultural Policy
(Special Report No 14/2000 (pursuant to article 248 (4) of the
EC Treaty) on Greening the CAP). Back
Sustainable development Strategy, 1999 Back
132 Ibid Back