National Audit Office publish report on environmental metrics

The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a report examining the government’s use of environmental metrics (measures or indicators of performance).

The report, titled: ‘Environmental metrics: government’s approach to monitoring the state of the natural environment‘, sets out the NAO’s expectations of good practice for an effective system of performance metrics. It also examines the government’s current environmental metrics and its plans for developing new metrics to measure progress of the 25-Year Plan for the Environment.

The report noted that the UK is one of the countries that has progressed furthest with developing data for a set of globally agreed indicators for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, however weaknesses highlighted in the NAO’s 2015 briefing ‘Environment and Sustainability Metrics‘ remain.

Key issues highlighted in the report include:

  • A lack of alignment between metrics and the government’s objectives;
  • Some data has significant timelags;
  • Defra has not done enough to engage other departments of government in its approach to applying environmental measurements.

Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO said:

Robust performance data and transparent reporting is essential for Parliament and the public to hold government to account on its ambition to improve the natural environment within a generation. Government’s new system of environmental metrics could transform its approach. But the critical tests will be whether all parts of government actually use this information to monitor progress and take action, and whether the new environmental watchdog has the ‘teeth’ to play its part effectively.