Documents to download

Academics Hilary Graham and Piran White have argued that “how future generations are represented in policy-making is one of the biggest questions of our time”. However, the “standard approach to policymaking prioritises the interests” of current citizens.

Some theorists have suggested that future generations should not be explicitly represented in policymaking. One reason advanced is their implicit representation through family and institutional ties of the current generation. Another is uncertainty about what future generations’ interests will actually be. However, counter-arguments have been made to these ideas.

Worldwide, countries including Finland, Hungary, Singapore and Israel have introduced formal representation of future generations into policymaking. There is a Commissioner for Future Generations in Wales, and a ‘futures forum’ in Scotland. There is no UK-wide equivalent, although future generations are mentioned in a number of policies and plans.

A preference for current over future generations is built into the cost-benefit analyses (CBAs) undertaken on proposed UK government policies. In CBAs, the ‘discount rate’ means that any benefit has a lower value, the further in the future it arises. However, the Government has said that this should be adjusted for environmental issues. These, it said, involve “significant and, for all practical purposes, irreversible wealth transfers from the future to the present”.

Intergenerational fairness may be threatened by current government deficits. These transfer the cost of spending onto future generations, even though they may not benefit from it. A House of Lords committee proposed that all spending policies should be subject to an ‘intergenerational impact assessment’.

Finally, a number of organisations have put forward proposals for how future generations might be formally represented in UK policymaking. Several have proposed a new House of Lords Committee as a possible approach.


Documents to download

Related posts

  • EU Committee Report: future UK–EU relationship on professional and business services

    In October 2020, the House of Lords European Union Committee published a report into the future of the UK-EU relationship on professional and business services. It argued the UK’s professional and business services sector potentially could be damaged by the establishment of new barriers to trade at the end of the transition period on 1 January 2021. The report recommended the Government needed to do more to support the sector.

    EU Committee Report: future UK–EU relationship on professional and business services
  • Antarctic Treaty: impact and relevance today

    The Antarctic Treaty is a framework for peaceful coexistence and scientific cooperation in the continent. It was ratified in 1961 by the 12 countries active in Antarctica at the time. 60 years since its ratification, the number of parties to the Antarctic Treaty has increased. However, the challenges facing the continent have also grown, including the threat of climate change to the continent’s ice sheet and the impact of tourism on local flora and fauna.

    Antarctic Treaty: impact and relevance today
  • Foreign languages: skills in the workforce

    Surveys consistently indicate just under two in three Britons are unable to hold a conversation in a language other than their mother tongue. A number of organisations have drawn attention to this so-called ‘language deficit’ and its impact on trade and employment. This article looks at calls to improve language skills in England in the context of the Government’s ambition for a ‘Global Britain’.

    Foreign languages: skills in the workforce