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UK faces 'ultimate test'

The environmental challenges identified by Tony Blair will provide this country with “the ultimate test”.

This is the view of Environment Secretary David Miliband, who, in an open letter to the Prime Minster pointed out that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is refreshing its strategy as it seeks to meet these issues head on.

He said: “Our starting point is that there are certain things we just have to get right, because they are key to the needs of our customers and to our reputation as a department.”

Miliband listed waste along with energy, farming and land as priorities and suggested that Defra needs to develop high impact policies in order to play a leading role in EU and international agreements.

He added: “The environmental challenges we now face as a country are bigger than ever before. Quite simply they come down to the fact that as a nation — indeed, across much of the globe- we are living beyond our environmental means.

“So, put simply, I see Defra’s mission as enabling a move toward what the World Wildlife Federation has called ‘one planet living’.”

He maintained his determination for Defra to make the fullest possible contribution to meeting the overarching challenges that Government faces.

Since his arrival, the department has been examining its aims, priorities, engagement with citizens and businesses, and alignment of policies, finances and organisations, with Miliband stressing the need to use the right mix of tools.

“In June, Defra celebrated its fifth birthday. The department has a track record of achievement on which I wish to build. But as an organisation we need to find new ways of working if we are to deliver our new agenda, particularly when so many of the issues I have identified involve working across Government.

“This is a department with a strong sense of moral purpose. My overwhelming impression from talking to staff at all levels is their passion to make a difference. The challenges we face are daunting, but with a renewed strategic focus on making ‘one planet living’ a reality, I think we can rise to them.”

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