MPs have accused the Treasury of ‘riding roughshod’ over other departments on environmental issues and putting short-term priorities above long-term sustainability.
Launching a highly-critical report on the Treasury’s approach, the Environmental Audit Committee called on it to ‘green-check’ all its decisions.
It accused the Treasury of putting short-term priorities over long-term sustainability, potentially increasing costs to the economy in the future, and harming investor confidence.
Committee chair Mary Creagh
Committee chair Mary Creagh MP said: ‘The Treasury is highly influential and uniquely placed to ensure the whole of Government works to promote sustainability. But we have seen considerable evidence that it fails to do this. The Treasury tends not to take full account of the long-term environmental costs and benefits of decisions which would reduce costs for taxpayers and consumers in the long run.
Ms Creagh said that on recent decisions on a carbon capture and storage competition and zero carbon homes ‘saw the Treasury riding roughshod over departments, cancelling long-established environmental programmes at short notice with no consultation, costing businesses and the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds’.
She said: ‘With a week to go until the next Autumn Statement, we hope our inquiry will be a wake-up call to the Treasury.’
MPs said the Treasury is failing adequately to factor in long-term environmental risks into its decisions and not doing enough to encourage departments to work together on environmental issues such as air quality, decarbonisation, energy and resource efficiency.
They said that if the Treasury is to improve its performance and provide greater leadership on environmental sustainability it must: ensure that Spending Reviews provide strong incentives for collaboration between departments; incorporate new evidence on long-term environmental risks and benefits into its frameworks for assessing the value for money of government interventions; provide publicly available justifications for its decisions; and work with departments whose policies affect the environment to ensure the Government’s new industrial strategies promote sustainability.
A Treasury spokesperson said: ‘We take long-term sustainability very seriously, and consider the environmental impact for all relevant policies. The Government has a strong record and that’s why we’re on track to exceed our ambition of delivering 30% of the UK’s electricity from renewable energy sources.
‘We will carefully consider the Committee’s findings and respond in due course.’