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Know your environmental limits: A local leaders’ guide

Classification:Natural Resources, Sustainable Communities, Governance, Local Government
Document type:SDC Reports & Papers
Download:know_your_env_limits1.pdf - 496 KB
Summary:imageLiving within environmental limits' is one of the five principles of sustainable development. It is easy to talk about environmental limits, and many of us accept that such limits must exist. But how do we recognise them? How do we know when we're bumping up against them? What can we do to prevent those limits being breached? And with the re-energised focus on local decision making we ask, what do they mean for local areas?

The SDC considered there to be an urgent need to recognise and live within environmental limits. Investigative work has been started by government and other agencies, but without clear results. The SDC recognised the gap in understanding 'environmental limits' at a local, practical level and set out to support the UK Government in developing a clearer set of principles for embedding environmental limits in a wide range of land use planning documents and policies. This was intended to be an in-depth research project, however with the cessation of Defra funding to the SDC the proposed timeline was drastically reduced. This report is therefore intended to help local governance bodies and community groups take their first steps in this area, and for government and its agencies to establish a grip on the subject and take it on.

We have proposed a definition of environmental limits and examined seven 'key' environmental areas under OECD's 'Pressure-State-Response' framework, highlighting existing legislative limits and where these do not exist. We have considered ‘land use’ and ‘soils’ as particular areas for government action as there is currently little or no action taken to recognise environmental limits in these areas. The report also makes suggestions for action by local governance bodies and community groups.

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