31 January 2011
The government’s controversial spending review was announced in October 2010 but now the dust is beginning to settle, what does the future hold for the world that we live in?
WYG’s Chief Scientist, Dr Stephen Bolt, gives his view on life after the spending review and how government's CSR is changing attitudes towards our environment.
“I have been in environmental science and services for over 35 years and have never witnessed such a fundamental change in awareness and attitude towards our environment.
We are truly at a cross roads. On the one hand, the state of the planet and our understanding of just how important its health is to our wellbeing has never been more acute.
The recent Defra report, ‘An invitation to shape the Nature of England’ shows that the government is aware of just how important ecosystem services are. However at the same time and with an audacious lack of connectivity, there appears to be an almost self congratulatory drive by ministers to ‘out cut’ other departments, threatening to derail vital initiatives.
In many ways, knowing that we are fully aware of the massive and possibly irreversible damage that we are doing to our future makes the current situation all the more alarming.
Cross roads imply choices and I believe that with proper consideration we can indeed use the current economical crisis to enhance and improve the much larger environmental crisis.
We just need to get our priorities right. Without a sound environment and the resources and services it provides, there will be no economy and not the other way around.
So if we are to seek to deliver the aspirations set out in the Defra document we need to join up the dots. This will allow us to deliver much more for less. In the UK we have a well developed environment regulatory system which has delivered dramatic environmental improvements against a backdrop of a very crowded Island. The challenge now is to instigate a step change in how we join up policies and regulations so they work together and not in conflict.
However, the recent and widely respected parliamentary public administration select committee casts serious doubt on whether the process of quangos and regulatory reform is being managed effectively. Bernard Jenkin, the conservative chairman of the committee is quoted as saying “The whole process is rushed and poorly handled”. Not surprisingly Jon Trickett, the shadow minister for the Cabinet Office goes further branding the initiative as “irrational, unaccountable and expensive mish-mash of proposals, which will do nothing to improve the quality of services to the British public”. Although Government has responded fundamentally disagreeing with the findings of the committee it does not give confidence that an issue of this importance of is in safe hands.
UK business and economic prosperity need a joined up, fair, stable and consistent regulatory system. Working for an environmental consultancy it is clear that nothing frustrates our clients more than a fragmentary and inconsistent regulatory framework subject to frequent and often baffling changes.
We will only deliver the twin goals of environmental and economic enhancement by a full and transparent review of our environmental regulatory system and the way it operates to form a single and holistic approach.
This needs to include planning, environmental protection, low carbon economy and environmental enhancement. This requires a fundamental culture change. However, the alternative future, should we fail, does not look bright.
Dr Stephen Bolt,
Chief Scientist WYG