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Sustainable Development Commission

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The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) describes itself as the UK Government’s independent adviser on sustainable development. The SDC reports directly to the Prime Minister, the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales and the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. It helps to put sustainable development at the heart of Government policy through advocacy and advice.[1]

The SDC's advice is based on sound and compelling evidence. It is accountable to Government for its recommendations, its impacts as an organisation and its use of resources.

For the UK Government the SDC has an official watchdog function, scrutinising progress on implementing its sustainable development strategy: monitoring targets on the sustainable management of the Government estate and procurement. This is combined with providing policy advice and helping to build capability across a range of departments.

It performs a similar scrutiny and advisory role for the Scottish Government, providing an annual independent review of progress on sustainable development, and advice and capability building on a range of issues.

The SDC's Wales team work closely with the Welsh Assembly Government - with its statutory duty on sustainable development - providing it with policy advice, capability building and independent assessment to help make sustainable development the central organising principle of government.

In Northern Ireland, the SDC works closely with the Government, providing specialist advice and capability building, helping to deliver the Executive’s new Sustainable Development Strategy and Implementation Plan.

On the 1st February 2009 the SDC became an (independent) executive non-departmental public body (NDPB) and is a company limited by guarantee. The company is wholly owned by the UK, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland governments, and is governed by a Board.

The SDC was chaired by Jonathan Porritt between 2000 - 2009. Since June 2009 it has been chaired by Will Day.[2][3]

On the 22nd July 2010, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced that it would stop funding the SDC (£1.9m), this coincided with the publication of the SDC's fifth annual report on the government's progress on sustainable development.[4][5]. This news has been met with criticism.[6][7][8][9][10]This has also led the Environmental Audit Committee, chaired by Joan Walley MP, to launch a new inquiry on how sustainable development can be further embedded in Government policy decision-making and operations.[11] [12]

Discussions are currently taking place whether and in what form the SDC will continue to exist in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

History[edit]

The establishment of the Sustainable Development Commission was proposed in the UK Government's White Paper "A better quality of life" (1999)[13].

In July 2000 the Prime Minister's office announced the appointment of Jonathon Porritt as Chair of the Commission.

In October 2000 the Government established the Sustainable Development Commission, which amalgamated the UK Round Table on Sustainable Development and the British Government Panel on Sustainable Development (both set up by the previous Conservative Government).

"The Commission replaces two previous advisory bodies on sustainable development: the UK Round Table and the British Government Panel. The first of these was a broadly based stakeholder body, the second a think tank advising the Government. They did an excellent job in articulating the sustainability problems facing the UK in areas such as climate change, transport and inequalities in health and living standards. Our Commission now has the difficult task of moving the sustainability agenda from analysis to implementation." Jonathan Porritt - March 2001

Recent work[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]


Nuclear power[edit]

A 2006 SDC report into nuclear power, Is nuclear the answer?, aimed for "a balanced examination of the pros and cons of the nuclear option". It found positives and negatives, that it is genuinely low carbon technology, with a good safety record, capable of generating large amounts of electricity. However,

  • Long-term waste, with no known long term solutions.
  • Cost - the economics of nuclear new-build are highly uncertain.
  • Inflexibility - nuclear supports a centralised distribution system and locks it in for decades.
  • Undermining energy efficiency - talk of a major technological fix could weaken the urgent action needed on energy efficiency.
  • International security - it becomes hard to deny other countries the same technology, and they may have lower safety standards, risking nuclear accidents, radiation exposure, weapons proliferation and terrorist attacks.

The SDC found that these disadvantages outweighed the advantages of nuclear.