Eco groups tell parties not to cut spending on environment

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Green groups have urged Britain's political parties to match their spin with substance by including firm pledges on the environment in their election manifestos.

Although the parties have maintained their commitment to green issues despite the recession, campaigners fear that the huge deficit in the public finances may force cuts in spending on tackling climate change and improving the natural environment.

In a report published today, eight groups which have a total of 1.5 million members list 10 key demands the parties should include in their manifestos to prove their green credentials. They include an increase in the budgets of the Energy and Climate Change and Environment departments. Both could be vulnerable to spending cuts under Labour or the Tories, as neither party has pledged to ring-fence their budgets. Other demands include an end to airport expansion, and a 40 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions generally and from Britain's houses by 2020.

Stephen Hale, director of Green Alliance, said on behalf of the groups (CPRE, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust, WWF and the Green Alliance): "It's now or never. The real contest will be over specific policies. Action in the next parliament is critical if we are to simultaneously reduce our CO2 emissions while improving the resilience of our natural environment to avoid the looming crises of food, energy and water shortages by 2030."

A year ago, the groups accused Labour of having a "contradictory and incoherent" approach to the environment, saying the Tories were "strong on presentation but weak on substance" and that the Liberal Democrats' long-standing enthusiasm for green issues had waned.

Privately, green campaigners believe the Government's record has improved since Ed Miliband became Energy and Climate Change Secretary. They think the Tories have adopted some good policies, such as opposing a third runway at Heathrow, but want to see David Cameron give the environment the high profile it enjoyed soon after he became Tory leader four years ago. They believe that Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, has become more engaged in green issues in the past year after a poor start.

The groups said: "It is imperative that the leaders of all parties in the next Parliament accord the highest priority to climate change and the natural environment."

Green manifestos: The 10 environment demands

* UK on track to cut emissions by 40 per cent by 2020, 80 per cent by 2050

* At least 15 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020

* Strong UK leadership to ensure world greenhouse gas emissions fall by 2015

* UK to give most of $160bn-a-year low-carbon scheme in developing nations

* Progress towards restoring UK natural environment by 2020

*Access for all to green space within walking distance of their home

* Sustainable as well as economic development at heart of planning system

* All income from EU emissions trading to go to tackling climate change

* Increase government spending on low carbon economy

* Cut emissions from UK housing stock by more than 40 per cent by 2020