Government 'not keeping green vows'


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Indy Politics

Just 2 per cent of people think the coalition is living up to Prime Minister David Cameron's promise to be the “greenest government ever”, a poll revealed today.

And ahead of a week which environmentalists fear will see an assault on countryside protections, the survey showed that only a tiny minority (4%) of people believe current rules safeguarding the environment are too strong.

The results of the "red tape challenge" review of environmental regulations, the controversial reforms to the planning system and an examination of how EU protections for nature are implemented are all expected in the next few days.

Green groups are concerned that Chancellor George Osborne will use Wednesday's Budget to attack environmental legislation, pushing a pro-growth agenda at the expense of the countryside and wildlife.

Greenpeace and the RSPB say the YouGov poll they commissioned shows people believe the Government is failing to live up to its green promises, and that ministers are out of step with the public who want to see nature protected.

The poll of more than 1,700 adults across the UK revealed that only 2% of those quizzed - and no Liberal Democrat voters - believed the coalition was the greenest ever, as Mr Cameron promised it would be shortly after taking office in 2010.

More people believed the Government was the least green ever (7%), while the majority (53%) thought it was about average.

The poll also found that while only 4% of people believed the current safeguards for wildlife and countryside were too strong, two-fifths (40%) thought they were too weak and slightly fewer than that (37%) thought they were about right.

Last year, Mr Osborne was accused of "anti-green" rhetoric in his Autumn Statement when he suggested environmental goals such as EU habitats regulations, which protect important wildlife, were putting "ridiculous costs on British businesses".

Campaigners have also been fighting the proposed changes to planning rules, which they fear will lead to damaging development in the countryside, and were alarmed by a review of all green rules, including key legislation on climate change and wildlife.

Following the survey, Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: "This poll shows that, when it comes to the laws that protect Britain's precious wildlife and countryside, the Chancellor George Osborne is out of touch and pushing an agenda that is at odds with the views and values of the vast majority of people in this country."

Mike Clarke, chief executive of the RSPB, said: "Given his understandable need to create jobs and growth, the Chancellor has allowed himself to be led by anecdote from business and development interests rather than meaningful evidence on the needs of the British economy.

"There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest protection of the environment is a barrier to economic growth but plenty to suggest smart regulation is actually a stimulus to growth.

"Because of this lack of understanding, the Budget this week has the potential to be a Black Wednesday for the environment if the Government unveils an attack on environmental legislation and new planning guidance which fails our wildlife sites."

A statement released jointly by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Department of Energy and Climate Change said the Government was overhauling the electricity market, delivered a programme to protect the natural environment and is working on on EU Level for a global deal on climate change, among other efforts.

A spokesman for both departments said: "We are firmly committed to being the greenest government ever and want to be judged on actions."