MoJ’s “dismal” Sustainability Report highlights missed opportunities, says IEMA

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There are huge opportunities to cut energy usage in prisons, says IEMA (Photo: Reading prison, which was decommissioned in 2013, during a public exhibition in December 2016).

Huge potential to improve energy efficiency, cut waste and reduce GHGs, says IEMA

A report on sustainability published by the Ministry of Justice makes for “dismal reading” says IEMA.

The report has been developed to address sustainability “gaps and weaknesses” in the Ministry’s departmental plan. With the Government’s second largest estate size, the Ministry has huge opportunity to drive down energy and resource use to make a significant contribution to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

However, Martin Baxter, Chief Policy Advisor of Sustainability body IEMA, says the report is “dismal reading”, but does highlight how necessary efficiencies in the court and prison system would help to financially underpin the department’s core purpose and functions.

In a blog published on 2 January, Baxter said: “The way our prisons and courts are managed offers huge potential to improve energy efficiency, cut down on waste and reduce greenhouse gas emissions; doing so in a cost-effective way allows money to be ploughed back into the Ministry’s core purpose.

It’s not just operational performance where sustainability is being marginalised, perhaps more concerning is in its core function of justice. The Government’s decision in February 2017 to remove a fixed cap on court costs in environmental cases has so far had a significant effect on the number of cases coming before the courts – a 30% reduction. This is important in terms of the UK’s implementation of the Aarhus convention, the international agreement on public participation in environmental decision making and access to environmental justice; one to watch out for as the UK leaves the EU and the oversight protection of the European Commission.

Government recently published its 25 Year Environment Plan, setting out the long-term policy direction for enhancing natural capital over a generation. Achievement of the environmental goals set out in the plan will only be achieved with cross-government support in the areas of transport, housing, local planning etc. Sustainability is everyone’s responsibility. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like this kind of end to end thinking is sinking in to the Government’s implementation across Whitehall.”

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Report on sustainability in the Ministry of Justice is available from https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmenvaud/545/545.pdf.

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