UK political parties urged to include green pledges in election manifestos
Campaigners including National Trust and Greenpeace ask politicians to demonstrate their commitment to the environment.
Green campaigners are calling on all of the UK's political parties to include key environmental pledges in their manifestos ahead of next spring's general election.
The UK is well-placed to lead the transition to a green economy, with the potential for hundreds of thousands of new jobs and thriving export industries, according to Greener Britain, a report by several leading campaigning groups including the National Trust, WWF, RSPB, Greenpeace, the Wildlife Trusts and Friends of the Earth, brought together by the thinktank Green Alliance.
The demands from the NGOs include: a 25-year plan for recovering the UK's dwindling green spaces and protecting wildlife; a "sustainable neighbourhoods programme" to give more power to local communities; an initiative to help households cut their energy bills to replace the ailing Green Deal, which has failed to insulate the number of houses hoped; and marine protected areas to halt overfishing.
Peter Nixon, the director of conservation at the National Trust, one of the UK's biggest charities, said: "Next May's election gives all parties the chance to demonstrate their commitment to the environment. We're calling for manifestos that commit to more and better local decision-making, the provision of high-quality local green spaces, and a bold plan for nature's recovery."
Green Alliance argues that environmental issues have been driven down the agenda in this parliament, despite David Cameron's pledge to lead the "greenest government ever".
The detailed proposals set out in Greener Britain consist of seven important goals, which are: leading the global low-carbon transition by supporting a global deal on emissions, setting a strict target on the decarbonistion of the power sector that would end the reliance on coal; leading the protection of the oceans by creating new reserves in the southern Atlantic, Arctic and the UK's seas; planning for recovering the UK's natural assets with a new act of parliament and statutory body to oversee the sustainable use of natural resources; improving public access to natural areas; accelerating household energy savings, for instance through better insulated homes; giving local communities more control, such as by giving all large UK cities comparable powers and funding to the capital's Transport for London; and ensuring better use of all resources by cutting the UK's consumption of resources, which would include more recycling of waste.
The groups behind Greener Britain boast a combined membership of more than 7 million people, many times more than any political party.
Mike Clarke, the chief executive of the RSPB, said: "Manifestos are sometimes important for their differences, but it's when they're the same that they're really powerful, especially for issues like the environment that affect us in so many ways. I hope that all parties will be able to adopt these practical proposals for a greener Britain."
David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF UK, warned politicians not to ignore the issues: "The environment matters to the many millions of people who are members and supporters of WWF and similar organisations, so it should matter to the politicians who seek to represent us too."
John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: "Every parliament has five years to get a grip on the formidable threats facing our climate, oceans, forests and wildlife. The next government will have the chance to help forge a critical international deal on climate change, support the creation of a global sanctuary in the Arctic and protect huge areas of the world's oceans. The question is whether they will have the courage to face up to vested interests and the vision to make it happen."
Matthew Spencer, the director of the Green Alliance, called on the parties to show stronger commitment in the next parliament. He said: "The proposals in this report offer all parties constructive ways to make Britain stronger and greener in a changing world. Their manifestos need to demonstrate that they have overcome the timidity of this parliament and have found their voice on the environment."
Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, said he welcomed the proposals: "Successive Liberal Democrat manifestos have placed a great emphasis on securing a green and sustainable future for the next generation," he said.
He pointed to plans for his party's manifesto, including cleaning up air and water pollution, the protection of natural resources and safeguards for forests and woodlands, adding: "We have a duty to look after our natural habitat for future generations and our manifesto will show that only theLiberal Democrats can be trusted to deliver a greener and sustainable society."
Maria Eagle, Labour's environment spokeswoman, also welcomed the challenge presented by the report. She said: "A Labour government will reprioritise flooding as a core responsibility of Defra, produce a new national adaptation programme and establish an independent national infrastructure commission to identify the UK's long-term infrastructure needs, including flood protection.
"Labour is also clear that politics should be about improving people's lives and bequeathing something better to our children than we ourselves inherited."
Amber Rudd, Conservative minister for energy and climate change, said the report was a welcome contribution to policy development.
"Under this government we have generated unprecedented investment into low-carbon technologies that is helping the UK to compete in the global race for green jobs and growth. The Green Investment Bank is just one example that has already helped to trigger billions of pounds of private-sector investment into our energy market."
Fiona Harvey, the guardian