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Government has no clear plan for Global Goals in UK

26 April 2017

The Environmental Audit Committee criticises the Government for failing to set out a clear plan to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (or Global Goals) here in the UK.

The Global Goals were agreed by nations at the UN in 2015 setting targets to end extreme poverty, tackle climate change and reduce inequality by 2030.

Chair's comments

Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said:

"Ours is the generation which can end poverty and ensure that our children inherit a fairer, healthier and more sustainable country. That is what the Global Goals are all about.

"As the UK leaves the EU, the Government has a once in a generation opportunity to use the Global Goals to forge a cross-party consensus on sustainable development in the UK.

"However, the Government seems to regard the Goals as a developing world issue and has no clear plan to implement them domestically.

"During this general election campaign, politicians of all parties should show their commitment to ending poverty, violence and hunger here in the UK, so that we can build a ‘Global Britain' where no one is left behind."

UK businesses and charities outpacing government

Implementing the Global Goals presents the UK with significant economic opportunities, according to the Committee's report. Achieving the goals will require effort from every section of society, but the Government has done little to promote the Goals and few people have heard of them.

The Government should start a national conversation about implementing the Goals, working with the BBC and other national media, and provide the public with ways to get involved. This could take place as part of Red Nose Day and Comic Relief, and link with charities working in the UK and overseas.

Despite the Government's failure to embrace the Goals, some UK businesses are embracing the Goals, and looking at how they contribute to this ambitious agenda. The Business & Sustainable Development Commission have estimated that the economic prize to business of implementing the Goals could be worth up to US$12 trillion by 2030.

The Government should support those companies who are already adopting the Goals, and incentivise or require others to do likewise, according to the Committee. In particular, the Government should look for effective ways to promote responsible business behaviour.

Improving implementation & accountability

While this Government makes big claims about what it is doing to deliver the Goals internationally, it is doing little at home, leaving a doughnut-shaped hole in place of efforts to implement the Goals in the UK. The fact that Cabinet-level Ministers were not willing to appear before the Committee was a worrying sign that this issue is being quietly dropped in Government.

The Committee's report criticises the lack of leadership from the Prime Minister, who should be the Goals and the interests of future generations at home in the UK. To address this accountability gap the Government should:

  • Establish an independent advisory body, tasking with providing independent, evidence-based advice to the responsible minister and the Prime Minister, and whose job it is to audit successive governments' performance against the long-term targets enshrined in the Goals
  • Publish a report setting out how it intends to take an integrated, cross-government and policy-coherent approach to implementing the Goals in the UK and how it will bring together the elements of the updated Single Departmental Plans that support the Goals
  • Appoint a Cabinet-level Minister in the Cabinet Office with strategic responsibility for implementing sustainable development, including the Goals, across Government.

Key to ensuring the Goals are met is having a proper accountability framework in place. The Committee was concerned that the Government appears to have changed its mind about the ONS developing a set of national indicators. This suggests an attempt to bury data which will be seen by the public - and us - as going against the spirit of the Goals.

Further information

Image: Global Festival of Ideas for Sustainable Development by photothek-Inga Kjer licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0