Government cuts funding for environmental issues

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The Independent Online

Ministers have slashed funding for campaigns to improve the environment and have quietly scrapped an initiative designed to combat global warming and increase recycling in Britain.

Ministers have slashed funding for campaigns to improve the environment and have quietly scrapped an initiative designed to combat global warming and increase recycling in Britain.

In a decision that will cast fresh doubt on the Government's commitment to green issues, funding for environmental campaigns has dramatically decreased in the past year, and now sits at its lowest level since Labour came to power.

The Government has abolished its flagship "Are you Doing your Bit?" campaign, which was designed to encourage people to change their habits and conserve energy, recycle and reduce car use.

The campaign, launched by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, in 1998 in a fanfare of publicity was promoted by Downing Street and regarded as a main tool in combating global warming and promoting sustainability. But its funding, which stood at nearly £10m four years ago, was eliminated last year and there are no plans to revive the programme.

The Government's own figures show that its expenditure on environmental campaigns will total £7.7m this year, a 58 per cent decrease from 2000 to 2001, when funding stood at £19m.

The cuts come as figures show that road traffic has increased by nearly 8 per cent in Britain and domestic energy consumption by almost 7 per cent. Carbon dioxide emissions have also risen.

Norman Baker MP, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, accused ministers or "green hypocrisy". He said: "The Secretary of State for the Environment, Margaret Beckett, has said that changing consumer behaviour is vital, yet, at the same time, cut the very programme which aims to do this. She must come clean and say how she plans to stop public awareness on this issue from withering away. 'Doing your Bit' doesn't mean binning environmental campaigns."

The Government has slashed funding for programmes to stop people littering and polluting, reducing energy use and cutting traffic pollution. Government funding for the Tidy Britain campaign, to cut littering, has fallen 48 per cent since last year and the energy efficiency campaign has had funding cut by 5 per cent.

Tony Blair has pledged to try to tackle global warming and has set demanding targets to try to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in Britain. But many commentators fear that Britain is not on track to meet the targets, particularly because of the Government's failure to cut car use.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the cuts to environmental campaigns were because of a reduction in funding from central government for the department and not because of a lack of commitment to green issues.He said: "We have had less resources to spend and that means we have had to make cuts. When cuts come they affect everything."

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