Margaret Beckett: By working together, we can bring about a sustainable future for all

Share
Related Topics

It is a stark and arresting fact that, since the middle of the 20th century, humankind has consumed more natural resources than in all previous human history. This has resulted in more pollution and waste; and contributed to climate change which is now acknowledged to be one of the greatest challenges for the coming century.

It is a stark and arresting fact that, since the middle of the 20th century, humankind has consumed more natural resources than in all previous human history. This has resulted in more pollution and waste; and contributed to climate change which is now acknowledged to be one of the greatest challenges for the coming century.

So when I'm asked, "What is sustainable development?" it isn't hard to point out what is not sustainable. This makes the case for urgent and serious change. But translating that into action is another matter.

In publishing the UK Sustainable Development Strategy this month, the two key messages were this - first, the Government itself is determined to take a lead and that sustainable development is for everybody; and, second, that citizens and communities have real choices which can contribute to sustainable development.

We need consumers, business and the public to demand, use, and support sustainable products and services and to choose more sustainable transport options. I very much hope that the case studies in this supplement will interest those who are willing to come on board; they certainly demonstrate how sustainable development can be applied.

We are looking at new ways of involving people in making decisions about their futures. And next year, the launch of a new information service, Environment Direct, will be able to help, complementing the advice already available from the Energy Saving Trust, the Carbon Trust and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

But, the first of my key messages is that the Government must take a lead. As a purchaser of more than £13bn worth of goods and services each year, there is much it can contribute. So I have asked Sir Neville Simms, a highly respected business leader, to chair a new task force to draw up an action plan by April next year. Its focus will be how to help the public to make more sustainable choices, but also how to encourage innovation and help drive the market for the future's sustainable products.

There is one area where we will take immediate action. We are introducing a new scheme to "offset" the carbon impacts of Government air travel. All Government departments will participate by April 2006. When there is no alternative to flying, Government will compensate for carbon dioxide released from our flights by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. This initiative will not detract from our wider emission reduction objectives for aviation, but is a useful interim measure which raises awareness of the environmental impact of air travel and provides a means to tackle emissions on a voluntary basis.

There are many examples of how the Government is encouraging more sustainable farming, the purchase of more sustainable food in the public sector and promoting more flexible working to reduce the reliance on travel.

Some organisations who are already delivering the vision and showing how it can be done include the following:

*Whipps Cross Hospital in East London, which is working with the Sustainable Development Commission to ensure the redevelopment of the hospital follows sustainable development principles, creating local jobs and improved healthcare facilities, while protecting the environment.

*With more than 8,000 suppliers and an annual spend of over £500m, Norfolk Council is making an impact on sustainability within its supply chain. The Supplier Support Scheme offers free advice and training to the Council's suppliers to ensure that they are working sustainably.

*Global Action Plan (GAP), who run a number of successful projects aimed at educating consumers about the choices they make. The charity provides practical advice about making changes at home, at work, and at school in an effort to support sustainable development.

*Hill Holt Wood in Lincolnshire was previously severely felled by a timber company who had used it unsustainably. In 2002, ownership of the wood was transferred to the local community and a Social Enterprise was set up.

*Baywind Energy Co-op owns six wind turbines in Cumbria and sells the energy through a Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation contract with a turnover of £475,000. Shares in the Co-op can return up to eight per cent if shareholders take advantage of an Enterprise Investment Scheme.

Delivery is crucial and a major theme of the strategy. But change on the ground must involve people at the local and community level; where everyday actions can improve our neighbourhoods and create better places to live. The strategy outlines a new programme called "Community Action 2020 - Together We Can" to be launched in the autumn, which will empower local people to act more sustainably.

The Government is determined to set the pace - to lead by example and then to follow through our promises into delivery. The organisations mentioned above show how others are pointing a powerful direction forward. Over the years ahead we want many more to follow their lead. Acting together, we can secure the future for us all.

Margaret Beckett is Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. For more information, visit: www.defra.gov.uk or www.sustainable-development.gov.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The UCAS clearing house call centre in Cheltenham, England  

Ucas should share its data on students from poor backgrounds so we can get a clearer picture of social mobility

Conor Ryan
A study of 16 young women performing light office work showed that they were at risk of being over-chilled by air conditioning in summer  

It's not just air conditioning that's guilty of camouflage sexism

Mollie Goodfellow
Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks