Government treating Global Goals as 'developing world issue', MPs warn

The Government has failed to set out plans to achieve a series of international goals in the UK, from ending poverty and hunger to tackling climate change, MPs have warned.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which were agreed by nations at the UN in 2015, are a series of targets to end extreme poverty, address environmental issues and reduce inequality by 2030.

They cover everything from promoting healthy lives, food security, quality education and gender equality to ensuring sustainable consumption and agriculture and affordable and clean energy.

But the Government is treating the aims, also known as the Global Goals, as a "developing world issue" and has no clear plan to implement them in the UK, the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee has warned.

Brexit gives the Government a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a cross-party consensus on sustainable development in the UK to bring the country environmental, social and economic benefits, a report from the committee said.

Committee chairwoman Mary Creagh said: "Ours is the generation which can end poverty and ensure that our children inherit a fairer, healthier and more sustainable country. That is what the Global Goals are all about.

"As the UK leaves the EU, the Government has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to use the Global Goals to forge a cross-party consensus on sustainable development in the UK.

"However, the Government seems to regard the goals as a developing world issue and has no clear plan to implement them domestically.

"During this general election campaign, politicians of all parties should show their commitment to ending poverty, violence and hunger here in the UK, so that we can build a 'Global Britain' where no one is left behind."

It has been estimated that globally, sustainable development could open up business opportunities worth up to 12 trillion US dollars (£9 trillion) by 2030 and create hundreds of millions of jobs.

Achieving the goals will require input from every part of society, but the Government has done little to promote them and few people have heard of them, the report said.

Ministers should start a national conversation about implementing the goals, working with the BBC and other national media and providing ways for the public to get involved.

This could happen as part of Red Nose Day and Comic Relief, linking up with charities working in the UK and abroad.

Businesses should be incentivised to follow the lead of UK companies who are already embracing the goals and the Government should promote responsible business behaviour, the report said.

The goals should form the basis of the consensus on the direction of the UK after Brexit, it should be enshrined in law and all new government policies should be assessed against how they contribute to achieve the aims, it said.

There should also be a Cabinet-level minister to implement sustainable development across the Government, the report urged.

A UK Government spokesman said: "The UK is committed to delivering the Global Goals, both internationally and at home, with their underlying aims reflected in the Government's programme of work and embedded in all single departmental plans.

"Progress against the Goals will be reported in each department's annual reports and accounts."