Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Politics: green rhetoric v's green action

How the UK Political Parties Stack Up

Which party is really delivering the goods when it comes to addressing environmental issues? Nine of the UK's leading environmental organisations (Green Alliance, Friends of the Earth, WWF, Campaign for Rural England, Greenpeace, Woodland Trust, The Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, RSPB) have subjected the three main political parties to an environmental audit.

How green are our parties? The Green Standard report, finds that none of the parties have yet implemented policy commitments and action on the scale required to meet the
range and urgency of the environmental threats we face.

The assessment sets out a set of six robust environmental leadership tests developed by the NGOs in February. The report
uses a ‘traffic light system’:
• Green to indicate support for both ambition and commitments
• Amber to indicate a mixed picture in relation to ambition and commitments
• Red to indicate where we are concerned by both the effect of a party’s approach and a lack of positive commitments.

The Green Standard tests are:
1. UK action on climate change - Achieve reductions in UK carbon dioxide emissions of at least three per cent year on year, en route to a low carbon economy based on energy efficiency, renewable sources of energy and
decentralised energy.
2. International action on climate change - Provide international leadership to restrict global temperature rises to 2°C and ensure worldwide emissions are falling by 2015.
3. Green living - Make it cheaper and easier for individuals to reduce their environmental impact through tax, regulation, information and other powers of government.
4. Natural environment - Protect and enhance the beauty, accessibility and wildlife of the environment in our countryside, towns and seas through incentives, regulation, investment and other powers of government.
5. Planning - Value, support and develop our planning system as a democratic tool for protecting and enhancing the natural and built environment of our countryside and towns.
6. Environmental tax and subsidies - Green the tax system by increasing the amount of revenue from taxes that reduce environmental damage, and eliminate environmentally perverse subsidies.

With no ‘green lights’, the gap between Conservative aspirations on the environment and their limited policy commitments is stark. The Labour government, despite having previously displayed international leadership on climate change, is failing on its renewables and emissions targets and has failed to commit to implementing a Marine Bill and receives just one green light. The Liberal Democrats get three green lights by offering the strongest set of policies on climate change, green taxation and green living. However, the gulf between words and action remains lamentably wide. The report concludes that all three parties have failed to give sufficient attention to policies that will protect and enhance our countryside and wildlife.

With the start of the party conference season just days away,The Climate Clinic (a coalition of 30+ of the UK’s leading environmental groups, trade bodies and professional societies representing over six million members) will, for the second year running, be at the three main political party conferences. Its aim is to push for real political action to tackle climate change by mobilising the UK’s most influential scientists, politicians, industry leaders and environmental campaigners.

The Climate Clinic
The Green Standard


Crafty Green Poet said...

Has any research been done on why the gap between rhetoric and action is so wide? Is economics holding them back?

The Lazy Environmentalist said...

You ask big questions! In short, yes - there has and yes in part. An excellent book that provides some of the answers is the recently updated "The Politics of The Environment" by Neil Carter, Cambridge Press, which I am currently devouring ... also great for putting in context the reasons behind the failure of environmental policy.

Another good read on the subject is Jonathon Porritt's "Capitalism, As If The World Matters", Earthscan which sets out the framework needed for a sustainable capitalism.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Thanks for the book recommendations - I'll look out for them!

Chris Bassoo said...

Posted by Christopher Bassoo, Canada

I wanted to thank you for the informative and enjoyable read. I have been sitting here with my coffee and laptop enjoying a Bassoo family evening. Again many thanks, warmest of regards Chris Bassoo, Toronto, Canada

The Lazy Environmentalist said...

Hey Chris - glad to be of assistance. And do come back to visit sometime soon.