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Home > Environment and Rural > Environment and Rural: the National Picture > Sustainable Development: the National Picture

The contents of this website are under review following the formation of a new HM Government. Current information may be found at www.gonetwork.gos.gov.uk.

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Sustainable Development: the National Picture

Sustainable Development aims to enable all people to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a better quality of life without compromising the quality of life of future generations. It is a key government policy at both national and regional level and is an issue that affects every business, organisation and individual.


Sustainable development in the UK will be delivered through an approach that integrates an innovative and productive economy, delivering high levels of employment with a just society. It aims to promote social inclusion, sustainable communities and personal wellbeing. This will be done in ways that protect and enhance the physical and natural environment, and use resources and energy as efficiently as possible.

Government Offices work to promote sustainable development to business, local government and the broader community. They also ensure that sustainable development is taken into account in all policies and programmes.

Guiding Principles

The UK's current sustainable development strategy 'Securing the future' was launched by the Prime Minister in March 2005. The strategy has five guiding principles that will form the basis for government policy in the UK:

  • living within environmental limits - Respecting the limits of the planet’s environment, resources and biodiversity – to improve our environment and ensure that the natural resources needed for life are not damaged for future generations
  • ensuring a strong, healthy and just society - Meeting the diverse needs of all people in existing and future communities, promoting personal wellbeing, social cohesion and inclusion, and creating equal opportunity for all
  • achieving a sustainable economy - Building a strong, stable and sustainable economy which provides prosperity and opportunities for all, and in which environmental and social costs fall on those who impose them (polluter pays), with incentives to use resources efficiently
  • promoting good governance - Actively promoting effective participation in the systems of government, at all levels of society by engaging people’s creativity, energy, and diversity
  • using sound science responsibly - Ensuring policy is developed and implemented on the basis of strong scientific evidence, whilst taking into account scientific uncertainty (through the precautionary principle) as well as public attitudes and values

Shared Priorities for UK Action

Securing the Future identifies four priority areas for immediate action.  These are:

  • Sustainable Consumption and Production
  • Climate Change and Energy
  • Natural Resource Protection and Environmental Enhancement
  • Sustainable Communities

Government Offices work with regional and local partners to ensure that the principles of sustainable development and the priority areas for action are at the heart of all regional strategies and programmes.  Regional Sustainable Development Frameworks (RSDFs) set out priorities for action; a key Government Office role is to work with regional partners to keep the RSDF up to date and monitor the delivery of its objectives.  

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