SD and the Legislative Process

In 2002 we were recommended to the Cabinet Office by DEFRA to advise on the application etc of sustainable development to the UK legislative process. This is one page of a number submitted. We used the example of sustainable methods of flood prevention as an example of changes to the legislative guidelines.

Extract of a Report and Recommendation on Regulatory Impact Assessment to The Cabinet Office 2002

Sustainable Development

This focuses on the section Sustainable Development in Annex 4. Firstly I would draw attention to the phrase in paragraph one containing the phrase ….so that the welfare (social, economic and environmental) of future generations is not compromised.

So many times I hear phrases such as sea level rises in 50 years time or x degrees rise in temperature in 100 years time etc.

The words “of future generations” alone could be detrimental for the present. Take for example flooding. Flooding is not only caused by increased rain fall, it is caused by the surge of water getting into the river system quicker. Removal of tree and vegetation cover allows water to enter the river system faster causes a surge and tomorrow somebody drowns or a town or city centre is flooded causing £ millions in damage.

The welfare of people is compromised today not a future generation in 50 years time. Only using the words “future generations” reduces the impact and importance of this issue.

A recommendation would be to include the word “now ” for example, …the welfare now (social, economic and environmental) and of future generations is not compromised.

Alternatively “of present and future generations”. Though this has a certain amount of ambiguity, present generation still does not have the impact that it is relevant immediately.

To an overview of this Sustainable Development section. I feel that it is accurate in directing attention to the three groups stated , broadly social, environmental and economic. As regard assistance in Better Policy Making I would recommend a slightly deeper exploration of SD.

I agree “one purpose of cost-benefit analysis is to ensure that in pursuing any single objective, we should not impose disproportionate costs elsewhere”. Though in regard to SD and better policy making I would suggest that one does not need to just pursue just one objective.

To me this section says if we want to win in one objective, we should try and ensure that we do not lose in the other two. A win, neutral, neutral scenario.

There is no reason why if one is looking at policy in the light of SD why one should not be looking at benefits across all 3 objectives. Win, win, win scenarios.

Hypothetically one could make a policy decision to improve bio-diversity in the countryside, by encouraging more hedgerows, woodland management and reforestation. This could be done as part of policy change regarding subsidies to farmers, cutting down on over production and reform of CAP.

The result of this increased bio-diversity could be the faster response and increase in predator/prey relationships. This could cut down on damage to crops by pests as they are controlled by natural means rather than use of chemicals. This could also then reduce the amount of cost in producing a given amount of food in a given area.

This could be part of a ‘value added’ organic production programme. Increased woodland, reinstatement of hedgerows etc. could reduce the speed of run off into the river system decreasing the risk of flooding . Hence reduced costs to householders, insurance companies and less social upheaval and disruption of communities.


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  1. #1 by Ted Burrett on April 24, 2009 - 11:32 am

    I can tell that this is not the first time at all that you write about this topic. Why have you chosen it again?

  2. #2 by celticlion on April 24, 2009 - 11:56 am


    This was another blog on WordPress and I thought the work was interesting enough to reproduce.

    The 2006 floods in Scotland and 2007 floods in England and Wales were not some unforeseen natural event many people knew they were going to happen.

    I submitted this to the UK Cabinet Office using flood prevention as an example, to try and prepare the way for preventing the flooding.

    The use of win win scenarios in multiple goal analysis I feel is a better way of managing systems rather than pursuing a single economic goal objective and trying to mitigate the cost burden on social and environmental systems.


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