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    Holding government to account on environmental progress

  • Posted on December 17, 2015 by

    We at the NAO aren’t environmental scientists, but we can still play an important role in debates about government’s environmental progress. Recently, Amyas Morse, Comptroller and Auditor General, spoke at the Environmental Audit Committee’s conference on sustainable development. We were pleased that his input was appreciated by delegates and Committee members.

    The conference was much less formal than a usual select committee hearing. It took the form of a series of short speeches followed by a Q&A session. Before Amyas we heard from representatives from Green Alliance, the Committee on Climate Change, and the Wildlife Trusts. Then the floor was opened up to delegates, with questions chaired by Committee members.

    Amyas spoke about three key concerns:

    1. There needs to be clear ownership of sustainability in government. Mainstreaming sustainability – although laudable in one way – can easily slip into being sidelined as government finds it difficult to do holistic well.
    2. To achieve real change, sustainability needs to be integrated into the new planning and performance framework for departments, including in single departmental plans.
    3. Holding people consistently and doggedly to account is really important!

    Of course, the last point is where we have the expertise, and we will continue to bring this to bear in our ongoing support for the Environmental Audit Committee. Our most recent briefing for EAC is on Environmental and sustainability metrics. This gives a high-level overview of the range of metrics government uses to assess and report on sustainable development and environmental protection, and how these compare with good practice principles for a performance management framework. We are now working on a review of how government considered environmental issues in the 2015 Spending Review, as well as an overview of how the Department for Transport fulfils its sustainability remit.

    The EAC’s website includes a transcript and video of the conference on 10 November.

    Katy Losse

    About the author: Katy Losse is an Audit Manager in NAO’s Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) team. Katy’s been at the NAO since 2005, and has a particular expertise and interest in environment and sustainability. She has an MsC in Environmental Technology from Imperial College, London.



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