Seven key environment groups have given their verdict on the environmental performance of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband. Their report, Green Standard 2013, is pretty condemning.
After a promising first few months, the coalition government and the UK’s senior politicians have been largely silent about the UK’s environmental goals. The prime minister’s promise that he would lead “the greenest government ever” has been devalued by the chancellor’s framing of high environmental standards as a threat to economic success.
David Cameron is castigated for having failed to address climate change scepticism among members of his party. The green groups says he now needs to rebuild support in the party for a green agenda to reconnect with mainstream public opinion in the UK. Owen Paterson is singled out for “publicly rejecting evidence of human-induced climate change and, in doing so, threatens to undermine evidence-based policy making on this issue.”
The authors praise Labour for its work up to Copenhagen but castigate it for “treating environmental sustainability as a bolt-on to its main economic and social objectives.” They say Miliband is giving promising leadership on the low carbon economy, but has no programme for government.
For Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems, they say:
The Liberal Democrats have won some significant battles on climate change. But they need to develop a bolder and more holistic approach to environmental sustainability in government, particularly for the natural environment, if they wish to continue to claim to be a ‘green’ party. The leadership must defend the fourth carbon budget and deliver an energy framework compatible with decarbonisation. The importance of the environment for ensuring economic renewal should be heard from all senior Liberal Democrat ministers… The party needs to realise its ambition for localism, and address the lack of resources and expert support available for the local councils and local enterprise partnerships that are trying to go green.
The Lib Dems are criticised for having “not found a strong voice on the natural environment or demonstrated an impact from within the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.”
Crucially, strong rhetoric on energy has not been replicated in policy detail, with Ed Davey overseeing an energy policy framework that risks a high carbon lock-in incompatible with carbon budgets.
The environmental groups are particularly critical of the “whipped vote against decarbonisation target, contrary to party policy, and a continued willingness to tolerate, and even promote, subsidies for nuclear power.” They say there is “no leadership on the natural environment agenda, and worrying support for policies that damage wildlife.”
David Heath is condemned for “supporting the damaging and unscientific badger cull and buzzard nest destruction. He has also not insisted on effective government action to halt the catastrophic decline of bees and refused to support a ban on neonicotinoids.”
While the stance on biofuels is among the best of all the European member states, Vince Cable “has not supported the phase out of UK taxpayer support for international fossil fuel projects” and is supporting nuclear power.
* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem living in Shropshire, and a former editor for Lib Dem Voice