Political parties fail leadership test
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Individual government ministers and shadow ministers are working to promote the pro-environment agenda, but the same level of commitment is not reflected by the leadership of the three main political parties in Westminster, say NGOs
An assessment by a group of NGOs, including the Green Alliance and WWF, is warning that two decades of steady progress in UK environment policy is now threatened as a result.
The government and senior politicians are condemned for remaining largely silent about the UK’s environmental goals since the 2010 election. The prime minister’s promise that he would lead the greenest government ever has been devalued by the chancellor’s framing of high environment standards as a threat to economic success, concludes the assessment.
And, although the government’s support for a strong fourth carbon budget is welcome, it is undermined by its plans to review the targets in 2014, which the assessment says has created uncertainty about the direction of low-carbon policy.
Ministers have not always shown a high regard for scientific evidence, say the NGOs, describing environment secretary Owen Paterson’s questioning of the science of climate change as a “low point”.
Electricity market reform is being poorly handled by Decc, which is headed by Liberal Democrat Ed Davey, says the assessment. Decc is described as overseeing an energy policy framework that risks a high carbon lock-in incompatible with the UK’s legally binding carbon budgets.
Although the Labour opposition is congratulated for its commitment to a decarbonisation target for electricity generation, it is criticised for failing to signal that the environment will be among its priorities going into the next election.
Publication of the natural environment white paper is applauded, with former Defra secretary Caroline Spelman praised for bringing forward the document. The minister for climate change, Greg Barker also received a largely positive appraisal, singled out for advocating energy efficiency and decentralised energy.
The Green Homes Grant is set to deliver only a fraction of the jobs and improvements intended, leading to calls for more involvement from local authorities in future schemes.
COVID-19 recovery packages have largely focused on protecting, rather than transforming, existing industries, and have been a “lost opportunity” for speeding up the global energy transition.
None of England’s water and sewerage companies achieved all environmental expectations for the period 2015 to 2020, the Environment Agency has revealed. These targets included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012, and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.
The UK’s pipeline for renewable energy projects could mitigate 90% of job losses caused by COVID-19 and help deliver the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. That is according to a recent report from consultancy EY-Parthenon, which outlines how the UK’s £108bn “visible pipeline” of investible renewable energy projects could create 625,000 jobs.
Billions of people worldwide have been unable to access safe drinking water and sanitation in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a progress report from the World Health Organisation focusing on the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.
The UK will no longer use unabated coal to generate electricity from October 2024, one year earlier than originally planned, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has announced.
The UK government is not on track to deliver on its promise to improve the environment within a generation and is failing to stem the tide of biodiversity loss, a damning new report from MPs has revealed.