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Towards a more sustainable UK

24 February 2003

Right direction, wrong speed

The Government's annual report on sustainable development in the UK reveals good progress in many areas, says the UK's Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), the Government's 'critical friend' on sustainability issues. But there are other areas where ground is being lost, or where progress has been worryingly slow.

'We welcome the reductions in fuel poverty, increased employment and improvements in housing conditions', says the Commission's Chairman Jonathon Porritt, 'But we have major concerns about other areas. For example, tackling
climate change is the greatest sustainable development challenge for the UK, and
one which now requires a redoubling of effort.'


'The report suggests that the Government is on track to meet its domestic goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by 2010 - we believe that is wildly optimistic. Our recent audit of the Climate Change Programme showed that
the UK will fall well short of this goal, unless further measures are taken very soon. One reason for that is that traffic levels are rising steadily, as the report confirms. There is clearly an urgent need for greater action to reduce road traffic.

'The headline indicators in the report also show greater progress is needed on reducing the incidence of robbery, and increasing reuse and recycling of household waste.

'But there are some positive signs in the report too. There's recognition that improving the nation's health is not just about treating the sick and encouraging people to live healthier life-styles; it's also about improving local environments,
increasing employment and making regeneration schemes far more sensitive to social and environmental issues. The SDC is working with the Department of Health to build on this approach.

'We will also be working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as it reviews the Government's sustainable development strategy this year. We need to see sustainable development at the heart of all policy-making, not
just at the heart of Defra and one or two friendly government ministries.'

Webcast Event

The Prime Minister will launch the Government's annual report on sustainable development by Margaret Beckett. The SDC is pleased to be hosting a live webcast of these events - you're welcome to join our virtual audience!

Timing of the event is as follows:
13.30 to 14.10
Speeches by Jonathon Porritt and the Prime Minister.

14.25 to 15.25
Launch of the Government's annual report on sustainable development by Margaret
Beckett followed by a Panel discussion and Q&A session with Margaret Beckett
(Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Jonathon Porritt (Chairman of the SDC), Anna Coote (King's Fund and Sustainable Development Commissioner), Chris Fay (Advisory Committee for Business and the Environment)
and John Harman (The Environment Agency).

To access the webcast, simply click on this link
http://events.simplywebcast.com/defra_feb_2003/index.html

Notes for editors:

1. The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) is the Government's independent sustainable development advisor, reporting to Tony Blair and the
devolved administration leaders. The Commission's objectives include advocating a compelling vision of a sustainable economy and society, and
reviewing how far sustainable development is being achieved in the UK across all sectors.

2. Sustainable development provides a framework for redirecting our economies to enable everyone to meet their basic needs and improve their quality of life while ensuring that the natural resources on which they depend are maintained and enhanced, both for their benefit and for that of future
generations.

3. The Government's annual report for 2002, Achieving a better quality of life: Review of progress towards sustainable development, is launched today. It will be available on the Government's sustainable development website
(www.sustainable-development.org.uk).

4. The report measures progress against 15 sustainable development indicators.
These indicators cover economic output; investment; employment; poverty and social exclusion; education; health; housing; crime; climate change; air quality; road traffic; river water quality; wildlife; land use; waste.

5. On 12 February, the Sustainable Development Commission published an audit of
the Government's Climate Change Programme. It concludes that the UK is likely
to achieve its Kyoto target for reductions in greenhouse gases as a whole, but
that the measures to achieve the Government's own domestic goal, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2010, are not in place.
Further information about the audit is available at www.sd-commission.org.uk.

6. The Sustainable Development Commission's most recent publication, Agenda:
where next for sustainable development, is available at www.sdcommission.org.uk or from the Commission's Secretariat, at the address below.

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