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Government needs greater accountability over resources

The UK should establish bodies to oversee Government policy to boost resource efficiency and environmental responsibility, a major waste management conference has been told.

Baroness Parminter, Liberal Democrat spokesperson in the House of Lords on environment, food and rural affairs (pictured), said ministers should be required to plan policies beyond the typical life of a Parliament and to be held accountable.

She was speaking on the first day of the ’Resourcing the Future’ conference in London, which is jointly staged by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, the Environmental Services Association, WRAP and the Resource Association.

In the keynote speech, Parminter said the public wanted to recycle more but resource efficiency, sustainability and the circular economy (CE) were not being widely discussed by the main parties. Only the Lib Dems had had significant references in the manifestoes at the general election.

She argued that institutions could be established similar to the Committee for Climate Change (CCC) and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

The CCC is an independent, statutory body established under the 2008 Climate Change Act, which advises the UK Government and devolved administrations on emissions targets and reports to Parliament on progress. The OBR was created in 2010 to provide independent and authoritative analysis of the UK’s public finances.

“We can see the potential for a mechanism to identify ways to reduce the key resources being used unsustainably by the UK economy. The committee could be given a duty to recommend legally binding targets for reducing their consumption, along the lines of the CCC,” she said.

The Government would be required to adopt these budgets or explain why it has not done so.

An Office for Environmental Responsibility, like the OBR, would offer independent analysis and advice to promote CE principles, rather than the present where responsibility is divided between Defra, Beis and DCLG.

The delay of Defra’s 25-year plan, not now expected until 2018, was a worrying signal about Government priorities, she argued.

She said evidence on its own was not enough to persuade politicians – there also had to be a collective political will.

As an example, the 5p charge for single-use plastics bags had registered with the public because a bag was something physical they could relate to.

Recent concern among the public over plastic litter could be mobilised if there was a coalition between relevant organisations to persuade politicians to respond, Parminter added.

 

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