“The greenest government ever” was what David Cameron promised as he formed his coalition government between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. The precise policy plans were laid out in the coalition agreement. So, 18 months in, how are those measures going? The Wildlife and Countryside link is an umbrella group of many of Britain’s environmental groups, and they have just issues a new report on progress so far. Nature Check (pdf) gives a red, amber or green rating on 16 key policies. Here’s the performance so far:
Only two commitments are moving forward with real progress. Those are oppostition to commercial whaling and a ban on ivory sales. Interestingly, both of those are international measures. “The UK can be proud of the role that the Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, played at the Nagoya meeting on the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2010, and she deserves congratulations for committing the UK to the 2020 biodiversity targets.” It’s when it comes to our own wildlife and green spaces that the government starts to slack the pace.
Several key commitments are languishing in the amber section, held up by funding cuts or by vague policies that don’t lead to action. That includes action on illegal timber, the protection of green spaces, and proposed legislation on water efficiency.
The measures in red are the serious failures, such as the fiasco over forests, and the recent draft planning reforms, including a bias in favour of sustainable development that completely redefined sustainability.
Why the noticeable differences between international and domestic ambition? The report suggests that the coalition is consistently prioritising economic growth over the environment. “The most significant barrier to meeting these commitments is the nature of the coalition’s approach to economic growth, which is a short-term agenda being pursued at almost any cost. From planning reform to the Red Tape Challenge the natural environment is being characterised as directly in conflict with economic growth.”
- Find out more about Nature Check here.