Friends of the Earth have used the occasion to reflect on Mr Blair’s years in power and criticised him for allowing the environment to become marginalised and for breaking his promises over a variety of environmental pledges.

Tony Juniper, Director of Friends of the Earth, said: “Back in 1997 Tony Blair promised to put the environment at the heart of Government but this has simply not been delivered. Climate change and major environmental issues will never be successfully tackled if they are seen in isolation or marginalised from other issues. Tony Blair needs to rise to the challenge and recognise environmental improvements as being central to the country s long term economic growth, health and security.”

The group says that Blair and New Labour have broken promises in a number of areas.

On climate change, Labour promised a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide yet emissions have in fact risen, largely from transport and the domestic sector. In addition, they promised that 10% of power would be generated by renewable energy sources by 2010 yet this accounts for less than 3% of electricity currently generated.

In 1997, when Labour came to power, they promised a shift to cleaner cars. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott actually said in June 1997: “I will have failed if, in five years time, there are not more people using public transport and far fewer journeys by car.”

Despite this, by 2003 car journeys had increased by 10% from 1997, to 490 billion kilometres a year.

New Labour also promised a shift in taxation from ‘goods’ such as employment and onto ‘bads’ such as pollution. However, statistics from the Government in 2003 show that as a percentage of total taxes, those imposed on fossil fuels have fallen to a ten year low of 8.3%.

Friends of the Earth also point out that on waste and recycling, the government has set itself targets way below those of other European targets. The UK currently recycles at a rate of 17% while other European countries such as Germany, are recycling at around 40 to 50%.

The criticism from Friends of the Earth comes at a time when most commentators have acknowledged that the run up to the election has begun, with all main parties offering new slogans and policies. In all of these, however, the environment still seems quite absent.

“The quality of our environment is central to our health, transport, and economy and urgently needs to be given equal standing by Government,” said Tony Juniper.

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