Politics needs 'regreening'

3rd July 2014


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  • Business & Industry ,
  • Central government

Author

Briony Turner

Lord Chris Smith, outgoing chair of the Environment Agency, has called for a "regreening" of politics and public discourse.

Smith claims the environment has faded from public sight. “It needs to be brought back into full and open view,” he told an audience at the RSA.

Smith, who became agency chair in 2008, argued that the high point for political focus on the environment was the passing of the Climate Change Act 2008, but that politicians had since largely failed to follow up the legislation with meaningful action. “The environment is low down the list of issues for politics and for government,” said Smith, describing the coalition as disappointing. It had done “little to live up to its ambition” to be the greenest government ever, he said, adding that the opposition was also guilty of failing to focus enough on the environment.

He contrasted the responses to climate change of politicians and the business community. “Businesses get it far better than most politicians,” said Smith, a former Labour government minister. Increasingly firms are preparing for climate change, he told the audience. “They recognise that doing things more greenly is also doing things more cheaply.”

He also outlined the key role of regulation in improving the environment. Regulation is important and a force for good, he said, arguing that the law, much of it stemming from the EU, was responsible for driving environmental improvement in the UK. Arbitrarily abandoning regulation would be a disaster, said Smith. He described the “one-in, two-out” policy on business regulation adopted by the government as unhelpful in delivering environmental protection.


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