Sustainable Development and Governments

The Sustainable Development Commission is abolished. Its role was to act as a watchdog and bark when the Government did not implement its sustainable development strategy within its own departments. It was supposed to ensure that the government did embed the principles of sustainable development within government decision making. I can understand why it has been abolished.

If a principle has been adopted by a government then that principle should be enshrined in legislation. If the legislation is breached then there are Courts and the whole judicial process as well as millions of people who will be concerned to remedy those breaches and put matters right.

The Sustainable Development Commission has talked a good game, but I doubt if it has made a difference. Its formation comes from the long line of decisions by former governments that if you enshrine a principle in law but provide not penalties for enforcement of the law in order to ensure adherence to the principle you are doing something positive.

The Sustainable Development Commission was as a watchdog not sustainable. When it barked no one took any notice. Its formation and function reminded me of those provisions in the Climate Change Act making emission reduction mandatory and those laws making fuel poverty illegal as far as practicable after 2016.

The formation of bodies such as the SDS did, I suppose, provide jobs for the boys or a cheap way to persuade people that the government was doing something about sustainable development when in reality it does not want to do anything about sustainable development. Instead of measures we have words, a talking forum and an appearance that sustainable development is important.

The problem with all development is that little of it can by its very nature be sustainable. The SDS’s website explained

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Unless we achieve what Brian Czech has described as a steady state economy – one without economic growth and one where we do not take out more than we need, sustainable development is the smoke and mirrors of a magician, and the Sustainable Development Commission served the philosophical function of deluding governments and the people that you can have your cake and eat it to, as long as you do it sustainably.

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