Monitoring of the state of the natural environment


1. Monitoring of the state of the natural environment

This statement defines the types of data that will be obtained to monitor whether the natural environment, or a particular aspect of it, is improving. This includes progress toward achieving goals or milestones, as per the current environmental improvement plan. This statement meets the requirements of Section 16 of the Environment Act 2021 and will be periodically reviewed and updated as necessary.

Defra, in partnership with its independent bodies, publishes a wide range of environmental statistics and data. The statistics aim to provide a window on the world through the areas covered by Defra’s policies and missions and to inform judgments and decisions made by the public, by organizations and by government. Its approach to publishing statistics is guided by the UK Statistics Authority’s Code of Practice for Statistics. Compliance with the Code ensures that government statistics have public value, are of high quality, and are produced by trustworthy people and organizations.

2. Environmental results indicators

The UK government published its first environmental improvement plan (the “25-year environmental plan”) in January 2018. This set out ten goals for improving the environment in England. A key commitment was to develop a comprehensive set of indicators, which collectively describe environmental change with respect to the ten goals of the environmental improvement plan and can be used to assess whether the natural environment is improving over time. course of the plan.

In 2019, the UK government then launched the Outcome Indicator Framework. It is a series of custom indicators designed to collectively describe environmental changes in relation to the ten objectives of the environmental improvement plan. The results indicator framework selected 66 different indicators that were deemed appropriate for use in examining relevant changes to the state of the natural environment. Some of these indicators had sufficient data to be published at launch and others have undergone iterative development since the launch of the framework, with progress being published through annual public update reports. As of the 2022 update, data will have been released for 50 indicators and a work program is still ongoing, aiming to complete data availability for the set of indicators by 2024.

This framework defines the types of natural environment data that are appropriate for monitoring whether the natural environment as a whole, or particular aspects of it, are improving in accordance with the environmental improvement plan. The framework contains 66 indicators, divided into 10 broad themes. Indicators are extensive; they cover natural capital assets (e.g. land, fresh water, air and seas) and together they show the state of these assets, the pressures on them and the supply of services or benefits they provide. The annual results indicator framework update reports describe the technical details of each indicator, with transparency of the data and methodologies used in producing the reported trends.

Indicators present trend information based on a range of quantitative and qualitative information. Statistical techniques are used to analyze trends and detect changes over time, taking into account the variability and uncertainty of the data.

Indicators in the Results Indicator Framework are not targets, and they do not have specific endpoints, levels, or trajectories attached to them. They are a way to monitor high-level changes happening in the environment and then allow us to ensure that we are taking appropriate action. For many themes in the outcome indicator framework there are links to established or developing strategies or policies such as the Resources and Waste Strategy for England, the Air Quality Strategy and the United Kingdom’s naval strategy. The results indicator framework does not attempt to reflect the breadth and depth of monitoring and evaluation required for these strategies, which will have their own appropriate mechanisms for detailed program-specific monitoring and evaluation.

The current framework was designed after extensive consultation with expert stakeholders. Over the next 25 years, we can expect new issues and policy priorities to emerge for which new indicators may be needed. The results indicator framework will be reviewed regularly, at least every five years, to ensure that it remains relevant and provides the best and most cost-effective means of assessing progress, taking into account evidence needs of future long-term reviews. Future Environmental Improvement Plans, as established under the Environment Act 2021. Technologies for monitoring and assessing changes in the environment are advancing rapidly and providing new cost-effective methods ( for example, Earth observations, DNA methods, citizen science/mobile applications and new sensor technologies). We will seek to update the indicators to reflect these developments.

While the results indicator framework already reports three-quarters of the indicators, building on existing data, some new indicators require new data collection and analysis to fully reflect the scope of the 10 goals of the environmental plan. 25 years old. We are working with expert leaders to develop all indicators by 2024, reflecting the need for new and quality research to provide the environmental information required. The development of these indicators will also consider relevant government strategies to ensure the creation of the most useful and sustainable indicators. This year, indicators are published concerning 9 of the 10 objectives of the 25-year Environment Plan.

3. Environmental targets

The Environment Act 2021 creates the power to set long-term legally binding environmental targets. It requires the government to set and meet at least one target in four priority areas: air quality, biodiversity, water and resource efficiency and waste reduction, as well as targets for particulate matter fine and abundance of species. The law provides that regulations setting these targets must be established by October 31, 2022. All targets set under the Environment Act must have an objectively measurable standard to be achieved. These standards will be specified in the regulations which contain the final long-term objectives. Goals are being developed through a robust process that properly collects and tests relevant evidence. Since August 2020, Defra statutory advisers and wider evidence partners have helped develop scientific evidence to support the proposed targets. The expert panels were also invaluable in helping to inform target development. They provided tailored advice on evidentiary processes and best available evidence.

We have published Evidence Reports that set out the underlying science for each of the proposed targets. This includes details of potential metrics and the data that would be needed to monitor progress against them. For example, for the proposed species extinction risk target, we would use the UK level data to create a new England Red List Index to use as a target indicator. The new index would include data on more than 7,000 species, including birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, some invertebrates, vascular plants, bryophytes, lichens and some fungi.

Some of the parameters of the proposed targets are linked to indicators in the results indicator framework. For example, the proposed species abundance targets are based on indicator D4. Where an indicator from the Results Indicator Framework was not used, we applied similar methods and standards to develop appropriate and tailored measures for potential targets.

Each long-term target will be supported by intermediate targets lasting up to five years. The interim targets will set the trajectory towards the long-term targets and provide an ongoing assessment of whether the government is on track to meet them.

The Environment Act requires the government to always have an environmental improvement plan in place. It sets out the actions the government intends to take to improve the natural environment, including actions needed to achieve its long-term and intermediate goals. We expect to complete the review of the environmental improvement plan by January 2023.

4. Environmental improvement plan – annual progress report

Tracking progress towards the ambitions and targets of the government’s environmental improvement plans will be set out in an annual progress report. The report will examine whether the natural environment, or particular aspects of it, have improved during the reporting period. The report will describe what has been done to implement the environmental improvement plan, taking into account the progress made towards achieving all relevant long-term and intermediate objectives.

To inform this assessment, the annual progress report will draw on evidence from the results indicator framework and other appropriate sources such as periodic statistical publications and scientific literature from across Defra Group, the Government at large and non-governmental organizations. This additional evidence will be assessed on an annual basis to meet identified needs, when other sources are not available. For example, when there has not been enough time to gather enough data for new indicators to robustly describe environmental changes towards the objectives of the environmental improvement plan. In these cases, additional evidence will be considered to support a qualitative assessment of progress in policy implementation for annual reporting.


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