Little or no progress has been made on majority of environment policies analysed in Friends of the Earth report
guardian.co.uk, Press Association, Saturday 7 May 2011
|David Cameron has come under fire for poor green progress, in a report|
commissioned by Friends of the Earth. (Photograph: David Levene
for the Guardian)
Progress on the prime minister's pledge to make the coalition the "greenest government ever" was heavily criticised today by environmental leaders.
The former government adviser, Jonathon Porritt, said the likelihood of the government living up to the promise made almost a year ago was "vanishingly remote".
In a report commissioned by Friends of the Earth, Porritt said ministers were failing to deliver on key environmental pledges, and policies had been watered down, delayed or even abandoned.
In the wake of the report, the Friends of the Earth executive director, Andy Atkins, warned that without "real political courage", Cameron's green ambitions would be simply hot air.
From proposals to sell off public forests to a review of feed-in tariffs for small-scale renewables and the decision to scrap a £42m marine renewables development fund, the government has failed to champion green issues, the report claims.
According to the research, little or no progress has been made on three quarters of 77 environmental or sustainability policies that were analysed.
Porritt said the review of the policies showed that the "bad and the positively ugly indisputably outweighed the good", and that growth at all costs had won out over efforts to create a green economy and thousands of low-carbon jobs.
He said Cameron had not been personally visible on green issues, the Treasury had been hostile to environmental policies and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was being "trampled all over" by other Whitehall departments.
And the "big society" and the localism agenda is being driven by the ideological priority to shrink the state, rather than delivering improvements in people's local environment and lives, he claimed.
Porritt was chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, which was set up to hold the government to account on its policies on sustainability but which was scrapped last year in the "bonfire of the quangos".
In his new report he warned that in the last year, most of the "important battles" on the environment had been lost, including the Treasury's refusal to let the green investment bank borrow funds until 2015, which he said would reduce its ability to drive investment in the low-carbon economy.
But the report did flag up a number of green initiatives which it said were positive, including scrapping plans to expand airports in the south east, announcing the world's first incentives to promote renewable heating and agreeing to roll out smart meters to 30m homes by 2014.
Porritt said: "The prime minister's own credibility is at stake here – as is that of the Liberal Democrats who have clearly failed to use their influence inside the coalition to ensure a better performance on the environment and sustainable development.
"It's certainly not too late, but things are going to have to change dramatically to make up lost ground."
Atkins said: "Confidence in David Cameron's boast to run the 'greenest government ever' is fading fast.
"Rather than creating a green and safe future, his government has steadily dismantled pledges and policies that would help him achieve it.
"David Cameron could be building a prosperous low-carbon economy out of the rubble of the old, creating new jobs and industries for recession-hit Britain – but green development is continually being sacrificed in favour of growth at any cost.
"Unless the prime minister starts to show real political courage and leadership on the environment, his green ambitions will simply be more hot air."
Last month, green campaigners and business leaders attacked the government's environmental record, with one investor saying the coalition's actions threatened to "choke off the lifeblood of the green economy."