15 December 2006 NEW INQUIRY

15 December 2006 NEW INQUIRY

Trade, Development and Environment: The role of the FCO

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) set up a Sub-committee on 26 January 2006 to conduct a series of inquiries into trade, development and the environment. The Sub-committee is today launching its fourth short inquiry, into the role of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in delivering the UK's international environmental objectives.

Although the FCO is often not the lead department on sustainable development issues, it has a crucial role to play in building international support for UK policy. This activity includes political dialogue and lobbying, and direct funding of projects through its Sustainable Development and Climate Change and Energy Programmes. It also has responsibilities relating to the environment in UK Overseas Territories.

The FCO published its White Paper, Active Diplomacy for a Changing World: The UK's International Priorities, in March 2006. This established that the department would promote 'sustainable development and poverty reduction underpinned by human rights, democracy, good governance and protection of the environment'. This commitment followed on from the publication of the FCO Sustainable Development Strategy published in March 2005, which provided a framework for FCO action on sustainable development from 2005 to 2008. The FCO's work on climate change is taken forward mainly under the International Energy Strategy which "defines a long-term strategic vision for energy policy combining environmental, security of supply, competitiveness and social goals up until 2050".

The Sub-committee invites organisations and members of the public to submit memoranda setting out their views on this inquiry. The specific issues on which the Sub-committee would welcome comments are set out below, although respondents are free to comment on any other issue which they consider relevant.

Written evidence should be sent to the Committee in Word format by Wednesday 17 January by e-mail to eacom@parliament.uk A brief guidance note on the preparation and submission of evidence is available on the Committee's web pages. Following the submission of evidence, the Committee intends to take oral evidence from a limited number of organisations in January and February and to publish a report thereafter. For further information on this inquiry, please telephone Oliver Bennett on 020-7219-1378.

Inquiry Issues

1. How do environmental protection and sustainable development relate to international security, good governance and democracy?

2. What are the main stumbling blocks to international environmental diplomacy, how successful has it been in the past, and how might we ensure better that negotiations lead to effective global environmental protection?

3. How does the FCO account for the environment in its work? Is the FCO's current structure and capacity effective at promoting UK international environmental and sustainable development priorities? Are FCO officials, at all levels, aware of the importance of the environment for development and security objectives, and vice versa?

4. What more could the FCO do to advance the UK's environmental objectives?

5. Are FCO sustainable development attach©s effective at promoting sustainable development internationally? How do they work and how might this be improved?

6. Do FCO policy documents, such as the 2006 White Paper, reflect sufficiently sustainable development objectives? Has the International Energy Strategy led to better consideration of climate change in international energy supply policy in the FCO and across government?

7. Is there adequate funding for projects in the FCO Sustainable Development Programme? Are all projects funded by the FCO, including under other programmes, leading to truly sustainable outcomes? How are FCO-funded projects screened to ensure their sustainability?

8. How well does the FCO work with other departments, and in particular DEFRA, DFID and DTI, in relation to sustainable development objectives?

9. How well does the FCO meet the competing demands placed upon them by different departments such as DTI and DEFRA, and is there evidence that the environment and development are given adequate priority?

10. To what extent does the FCO work with non-state actors in achieving sustainable development objectives? Has the FCO made full use of such organisations?

11. Should the FCO be required to extend its environmental policy statement to its foreign estate? How well does its foreign estate perform in relation to the policy statement? Is the FCO foreign estate providing an example of our international environmental aspirations, such as the use of less polluting vehicles or renewable energy?

12. How well are environmental objectives reflected in the FCO Public Service Agreements?

13. Has the FCO met its responsibilities towards the environment in UK Overseas Territories?

14. How effective have public diplomacy activities funded by FCO been in promoting sustainable development principles abroad?

Notes for Editors

1. The Sub-committee will be reporting on its previous inquiry on the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in January 2006.