According to Nature Check 2013, a report published today by 41 environmental organisations, the proportion of nature commitments on which the Government is failing has steadily worsened during its term in office.

Areas the Government is “falling short” include protection of the Green Belt, farm animal welfare, designating the full network of Marine Conservation Zones and reversing wildlife declines.

The report also claims that the Government has failed to implement the Biodiversity Strategy, protect the environment within the planning system and provide holistic flood control.

Compared with results from last year’s report, 20% of the Government’s commitments have “got worse and only 10% have improved”.

Alongside the report, the group, called Wildlife and Countryside Link, published a survey of more than 2,000 adults, which finds that 83% of British adults believe the natural environment should be protected at all costs, while only a quarter think the Government is doing enough to protect the UK’s landscapes and wildlife.

The survey also finds that 91% of people agree that the condition of the natural environment must be improved for future generations, while 85% agree the natural environment boosts their quality of life.

The organisations behind the report and survey, which include WWF, The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, CPRE and the RSPCA, are urging the Government to recognise the value of nature to both the “economy and to the people of Britain”.

Speaking on behalf of the 41 organisations, Wildlife and Countryside Link’s director, Dr Elaine King, said: “David Cameron promised the greenest Government ever. Using the Government’s own promises as a yardstick, today’s findings show he’s failed to stick to his plan.

“Our survey shows that the majority of people want politicians to do more to protect nature and the countryside. The message from the public is clear – they want healthy seas and landscapes providing rich habitats for thriving wildlife. But sadly, most species in this country are in decline,” added King.

When questioned about the Government, just 21% agree the Coalition is the ‘greenest Government ever’, while 28% agree it is taking the right steps to leave the natural environment in a better condition for future generations.

King added: “We’re told an economy in crisis is a higher priority than nature in crisis. Yet the Government is missing a huge opportunity – a healthy environment helps the economy and enhances people’s health and wellbeing.

“Our wetlands alone provide a home for millions of migrating birds and other wildlife, but they also give us £350m worth of flood protection a year through storing rainwater that would otherwise run off our roads and fields into our towns”.

King said that without wetlands, the cost of resulting flood damage would need to be met by businesses and Government and “passed on to the public through higher prices and higher taxes”.

However, the report does highlight areas the Government has made progress, which the group says demonstrates “the Government is capable of providing green leadership”.

Examples include reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, work on ash dieback, and international work to protect elephants, rhinos and whales.

It has also made “moderate progress” on water and agriculture policies, including the Water Bill and reforms to the Common Agriculture Policy.

This latest round of scrutiny follows last months criticism from environmental groups when the Prime Minister came under fire for his comments that green regulations and charges were only adding to the cost of energy in the wake of recent energy price spikes.

Leigh Stringer

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