The government has made “disappointing progress” on tackling environmental issues including air and water quality and the loss of wildlife, according to MPs.
A report by the Public Accounts Committee says the government’s 25-year Environment Plan, which was published in 2018, does not contain a coherent set of long-term objectives.
It also says that DEFRA – the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – does not have the “clout” to lead the rest of government.
The criticism comes at the start of a year when the UK will host the landmark COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in November.
Meg Hillier, MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “Our national environmental response is left to one department and months from hosting an international conference on climate change the government struggles to determine the environmental impact of its own latest spending round.
“The government must move on from aspirational words and start taking the hard decisions across a wide range of policy areas required to deliver real results – time is running out.”
In 2011 the government set the ambition to improve the natural environment “within a generation” but the 25 year Environment Plan was not published until 2018.
The Public Accounts Committee says the complexity of environmental issues is “not a good enough excuse”.
The committee is calling for a plan to tackle issues not covered in the forthcoming Environment Bill.
It also says the government does not have a “good grip” on the total costs required to deliver environmental goals.
It says ahead of the last Spending Review departments struggled to provide the Treasury with requested information about how their proposals would contribute towards the UK’s statutory carbon targets.
The government has pledged to be net zero by 2050.