Today, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has published its first assessment of progress towards the goals of the 25 Year Environment Plan.
The 25 Year Environment Plan (25YEP) was published in 2018, setting the ambitious aim to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it was found. The OEP has a legal duty under the Environment Act 2021 to monitor and report on Environmental Improvement Plans (EIP), of which the 25YEP is one.
The OEP’s report finds that, despite the high ambition of the Plan, there has been little progress overall and the policy has not been successful in halting or reversing declines in biodiversity.
The Taking stock: protecting, restoring and improving the environment in England report published today sets out a framework of six building blocks that need to be in place to achieve a shift from ambition to delivery. These are:
(1) understanding environmental drivers and pressures: the OEP recommend the Government should carry out a comprehensive stocktake of the condition of the environment, environmental pressures and their drivers, and identify the most important environmental concerns.
(2) creating a vision: the OEP want to see a “sharper vision” of nature’s recovery embedded across the Defra group.
(3) setting targets: the report calls for government to set “ambitious apex targets which prioritise parts of the environment experiencing states of severe deterioration, and major or emerging pressures that negatively impact the environment.”
(4) coherent strategy and policy: the OEP calls for all key government strategies and policies that affect the environment to be aligned with, and follow from, the ambitions of the 25 YEP and future EIPs.
(5) governance: “government should establish strong EIP governance arrangements including the involvement of other government departments.”
(6) monitoring, assessing and reporting: the OEP notes there are significant gaps in the monitoring of key aspects of our environment and calls for a greater role for the Office of National Statistics in overseeing the environmental statistics.