The Natural Capital Committee has slammed the first annual progress report to be published on the 25 Year Environment Plan (25YEP), and said there is and urgent need for the government to now commit to robustly measuring changes in the environment.
NCC chair Dieter Helm (pictured), said: “The Progress Report [published this year, one year on from the publication of the 25YEP] does not in fact tell us very much about whether and to what extent there has been progress. On the contrary, the Progress Report provides a long list of actions, and presents very little evidence of improvements in the state of our natural capital.
"This is especially disappointing since eight years have now passed since the White Paper set its objective. This failure is due to the lack of a natural capital assets baseline against which to measure progress.”
Helm pointed out the NCC had already recommended that the 25YEP should be put on a meaningful statutory footing, including statutory targets and five year milestones to ensure the objectives are met. He added: “As a matter of urgency, the government should commit to establishing an environmental baseline against which progress can be measured.”
In a separate paper, the NCC set out how this should be conducted, and subsequently repeated on a five year cycle. It said the baseline census should focus on identifying and measuring the extent and condition of the stock of natural capital assets across England. The assessment of pressures, and the associated goods and services provided by natural capital assets should be carried out as a separate exercise. It argued a single governing body or group should be charged with coordinating the census rather than it being the responsibility of any one government department or NGO.
The NCC said the 25YEP’s Indicator Framework and a review of existing datasets “reveals a distinct lack of robust baseline against which to assess changes in the environment.” It urged the government to review and synchronise (to a common starting point for inclusion in the planned 2020 census) existing data and collections in progress, and to supplement these with rigorous gap analysis of environmental data that does not currently exist. It further argued citizen science and data capture from emerging technologies be part of the new data collection strategy.