Green groups urge Cameron to address 'woeful' environmental record
Leading environmental groups have written to Prime Minister David Cameron to criticise the scrapping of 10 green policies in the first few months of the new Conservative Government.
The 10 signatories, which together represent millions of members, include The National Trust, the RSPB, The Wildlife Trust, Greenpeace, the WWF and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. (Scroll down to read the full letter).
The letter cites changes to support for renewable energy technology, such as the end of the Renewables Obligation for Solar energy and Onshore Wind, changes to the Climate Change Levy, the planned selloff of the Green Investment Bank and the cancellation of two zero-carbon building initiatives as some of the major failings in green policy.
The signatories also reject the policy U-turn to allow exploration for Shale gas in protected areas and the end of the Green Deal finance scheme.
The letter states: “We welcomed the Conservative manifesto commitment to ‘being the first generation to leave the natural environment of England in a better state than that in which we found it’. Unfortunately, ten green policies which could have helped you to achieve these goals have been cancelled or weakened in the past three months.”
The signatories add: “We have, as yet, seen no positive new measures introduced to restore the health of our environment or grow the low carbon economy.”
The letter claims the Conservative policy moves were “running counter to the strong intentions” in the pre-election manifesto. Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England said, although the Prime Minister clearly cared about the environment, the Government record was "woeful".
WWF UK chief executive David Nussbaum called the changes to environmental commitments “short-sighted and short-termist”, and Mike Clarke, chief executive of the RSPB, said the Conservatives risked leaving “a legacy of empty rhetoric.”
The signatories also opposed Chancellor George Osborne’s changes to Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) in the Summer Budget earlier this month. The Budget made plans to change the tax, charging a flat rate of £140 for all cars and removing the sliding scale for new cars based on emissions.
Under new scheme, zero-emissions cars would still pay nothing, but many low emission cars would pay the same rate as inefficient gas-guzzlers.
Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport and signatory of the letter, said: “The changes announced by the Chancellor to vehicle excise duty have largely removed the financial incentive to buy a more efficient and less polluting car and fly in the face of the government’s environmental commitments.”
Criticism of the changes to VED was not limited to the environmental groups; their calls were echoed by the president of the Automobile Association (AA) Edmund King, who told BBC News: “If the government is serious about trying to get motorists to drive cleaner greener cars, this is really counter-productive.
“Drivers will not be given the same incentive to go for cleaner (petrol or hybrid) cars so there won’t be the same pressure on manufacturers to produce those cleaner models. We seem to be getting rid of an incentive that worked very well.”
According to a survey by the AA, 59% of drivers thought the VED changes penalised drivers of low-emission cars.
Following recent changes, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said the ends to energy subsidies were part of a strategy to keep costs down for consumers: “My priorities are clear - we need to keep bills as low as possible for hardworking families and businesses while reducing our emissions in the most cost-effective way.”
Rudd has also recently reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to the upcoming climate change talks in Paris in December.
However, Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said the outlook for the UK’s position in the talks was looking increasingly difficult: “It will be a hard sell to the international community at the climate talks in Paris at the end of the year. Without any real domestic action to tackle climate change this government will lose any credibility to influence others.”