Jonathon Porritt was chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) between 2000-2009
Jonathon Porritt slams Government decision to scrap crucial watchdog
23rd July, 2010
Getting rid of the Sustainable Development Commission was a 'transparently vacuous' decision that exposes the Government's opposition to true sustainable development
The UK is in danger of going backwards on its sustainability record, warned MPs and former government advisor Jonathon Porritt, after its decision to scrap its independent watchdog, the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC).
Set up in 2000, the SDC has produced a number of influential reports on tidal power, nuclear and the groundbreaking but perhaps ill-timed 2009 report on the failings of, and alternatives, to economic growth. At the time of its publication, the Treasury was reported to have told the watchdog that the report 'wasn't the kind of advice the UK Government needed'.
In a statement yesterday Environment Minister Caroline Spelman said sustainability was now 'part of everyday business' across Government and that there was no need for the body, which costs £4 million a year to run.
However, both the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) and former Chair of the SDC, Jonathon Porritt, questioned Defra's claim that sustainable development was already 'embedded in every department'. The EAC said Defra had also provided no indication of how it would champion sustainability across Government or what resources would be made available.
'Defra Ministers are now claiming that sustainable development has been embedded in every department. In other words, no specialist capability at the centre is any longer required, simply because the Government ‘gets it’. Like hell it does,' said Porritt.
Porritt also accused Spelman of 'brazen cycnism' for also claiming she would 'take the lead role in driving the sustainability agenda across the whole of Government'.
'The only thing Mrs Spelman has done so far as Secretary of State at Defra is publish a new strategy for the Department. This has not one serious reference to sustainable development in it. Such is the depth of her concern,' he said.
The Welsh Assembly Government, which part-funds the SDC along with the Scottish and Northern Ireland administrations, also questioned how a government could effectively independently scrutinise itself.
Welsh environment minister Jane Davidson said she was 'disappointed' by the unilateral decision to cut funding for the SDC and said there was a continuing need to, 'seek independent advice on sustainable development'.
Porritt said the new Government was 'ideologically opposed' to the idea of being independently judged on its sustainability performance.
'Their justification for getting rid of the SDC is transparently vacuous, if not downright dishonest. This is an ideological decision – in other words, a decision driven by dogma not by evidence-based, rational analysis.
'The only conceivable reason for allowing dogma to dominate in this way is that the Government doesn’t want anyone independently auditing its performance on sustainable development.'
Sustainable Development Commission
Economic growth has let us down. What's the alternative?
Tim Jackson's new book, 'Prosperity Without Growth', is an explosive indictment of the failure of economic growth to provide sustainable wellbeing for the world's population. But there could be another way forward...
Sustainability watchdog slams Government’s energy plans
The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) has accused the Government of producing energy strategies that are 'carbon blind'
Will Day: new watchdog chief on GM, nuclear and political jargon
Will Day is still to prove his credentials to environmentalists as he replaces the high-profile Jonathon Porritt as the head of the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC).
Face it: orthodox economics messed up
In drowning out the voices of those economists that don't adhere to neoclassical orthodoxy, the current global financial collapse was inevitable
Sustainability 'undone' by Treasury and BIS, says Porritt
The outgoing chief of the Government's independent sustainability watchdog, Jonathon Porritt, has criticised the Treasury and Department for Business for a failure to advance the sustainable development agenda
Using this website means you agree to us using simple cookies.