Labour party pledges greater recycling and greenhouse gas cuts, but is accused of having a fetish for incinerators

In an election manifesto which is short on environmental policies, the Labour party is promising to further cut domestic carbon dioxide emissions and increase recycling targets but has been accused of having a fetish for incineration, and is being criticised for failing to include environmental issues in its five priority pledges for a second term in government.

The Labour government has been at the forefront of international negotiations on climate change, imposing a 23% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2010 for the UK, far higher than the average 5.2% below 1990 levels by 2008-2012 adopted by other countries. In order to cut emissions from industry, the Government has also brought in the Climate Change Levy, although this has been criticised by the other parties for being ill-aimed, and is also intending to bring in the first ever national emissions trading scheme. The Government has also launched the Carbon Trust, designed to accelerate the take-up of new carbon technologies.

According to the manifesto, the party intends to increase recycling, setting a target of 35% by 2015, with recycling at the top of the waste hierarchy, and incineration and landfill only being used where recycling is not possible. The party also states that the new generation of incinerators use cleaner technology which is tightly controlled in order to protect health and the environment. However, a number of councils have already proved that a far higher recycling target is possible with one council already reaching 57% , and Labour has been criticised by environmentalists for being the only party not to call for a moratorium on new incinerators until the effects on public health have been established. The Labour party refused to comment any further to edieon its incineration policy.

The Labour party is proud of its record on water management, with its policies resulting in leakage from water company pipes in England and Wales being cut by almost 30% since 1997. If elected, the Labour party also promises to ensure that secondary treatment will be provided for all sewage discharges from towns with a population of at least 15,000 by 2002, and that they will end the practice of pumping untreated sewage into the sea.

With regards to transport, the Government outlined its 10 year plan in July last year, which included £60 billion for the national rail network and a similar sum for local public transport, but three times that amount for road building, which will include 100 new bypasses. However, in its manifesto, the party is promising to support hybrid and fuel cell vehicles, stating that increasing demand for new technologies will boost innovation and the vitality of the UK car industry.

The Labour party also claims that it will work to improve marine and forest conservation both overseas and in the UK, but a Labour spokesperson was unaware of any further details regarding this policy.

This week, the campaign group Friends of the Earth has lodged papers at the High Court, applying for a Judicial review of Government decisions regarding operations at the Sellafield mixed oxide plant (MOX) . The group is claiming that both the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Health have acted unlawfully by restricting the scope of the final consultation exercise, in particular through skewing the economic benefits of the scheme by failing to include £482 million of taxpayers funds spend so far, and withholding an independent report into the plant’s economic viability.

This is the third in our series on the election manifestos of the main parties, in which the Liberal Democrats were named by environmental groups as the most environmentally sustainable , and the Conservative Environment Spokesman, Damian Green, outlined a variety of policies, including a more sustainable housing development programme.

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