Tory manifesto an 'absolute car crash for environment', says Green Party's Caroline Lucas

Friends of the Earth hails Conservatives 'comprehensive' rejection of climate science deniers, saying it sends a 'strong message' to Donald Trump

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The Conservatives’ election manifesto would be “an absolute car-crash for the environment” if implemented by the next Government, Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas has warned.

The document claimed the UK would “lead the world in environmental protection” and reiterated the Tory pledge to “leave the environment in better condition than we inherited it”.

It trumpeted the fact that Britain was the first country in the world to introduce a Climate Change Act, even though this became law in 2008 under the last Labour Government.

However Ms Lucas condemned the proposed policies, pointing out that the UK was set to miss its greenhouse gas emissions targets for the late 2020s and early 2030s.

“This Conservative agenda represents an absolute car-crash for the environment, and makes an entirely vacuous contribution to the major environmental challenges of our time,” she said.

“With the UK's climate targets slipping further out of reach and biodiversity in free fall, it appears Theresa May has decided to bury her head in the sand.

“There is one paltry mention of the air pollution crisis, and no mention of the jaw-dropping cost reductions in renewable energy. 

“Fracking will be forced on local communities, whilst the dirty and expensive energy of the past will continue to receive lavish public hand-outs. The cheapest and cleanest energy once again loses out.”

And she warned things could get worse after the UK leaves the European Union, which has world-leading environmental standards.

Right-wing Conservatives have already suggested such “red tape” should be ditched after Brexit, but there is also concern that the transfer of EU law onto the UK statute books will not include important over-arching policies such as the polluter pays and the precautionary principle.

The EU courts also provide a means to enforce environmental regulations that could also not be available in post-Brexit Britain. 

“With the trajectory firmly set for an extreme Brexit, our most precious and wildest places are now firmly in the sights of an aggressive Government with a blind and brutal agenda of deregulation,” Ms Lucas said.

“There is no detail [in the manifesto] on how vital EU monitoring and enforcement of environmental protections will be replaced, and no long-term goal for restoring our environment. 

“The fuel for a red-tape bonfire is being prepared, and, in the end, we will also lose out.

“Quite simply, this country looks set to face an unprecedented, undemocratic, and economically-illiterate attack on the environment, and the Green Party will be at the front-line of opposing it.”

The manifesto said the Tories’ approach to Brexit would mean “the rights of workers and protections given to consumers and the environment by EU law will continue to be available in UK law at the point at which we leave the EU”.

And it pledged: “The United Kingdom will lead the world in environmental protection. As Conservatives, we are committed to leaving the environment in better condition than we inherited it. 

“That is why we will continue to take a lead in global action against climate change, as the government demonstrated by ratifying the Paris Agreement. 

“We were the first country to introduce a Climate Change Act, which Conservatives helped to frame, and we are halfway towards meeting our 2050 goal of reducing emissions by 80 per cent from 1990 levels. 

“We will champion greater conservation co-operation within international bodies, protecting rare species, the polar regions and international waters.”

They also repeated an earlier plan for a “Blue Belt” of marine protected areas in the UK’s Overseas Territories, “establishing the largest marine sanctuaries anywhere in the world”.

The 25-Year Environment Plan, which had been expected to be published earlier this year, would “chart how we will improve our environment as we leave the European Union and take control of our environmental legislation again”.

Dave Timms, a Friends of the Earth campaigner, was unimpressed by such rhetoric.

“The mantra of 'take back control' will ring hollow for communities who face having fracking forced down their throats and their rights stripped away,” he said.

“The lack of policies to deal with the dirty air crisis is astounding. Polluting car manufacturers will sleep easy knowing that they have been let off the hook, while children with asthma will continue to choke. This is a national disgrace which can’t be hidden behind planting a few trees.”

But he did praise the Tories for rejecting calls for the UK to follow Donald Trump’s America into full-scale climate science denial.

“The Conservatives have comprehensively rejected the siren voices calling for the UK to walk away from its international and domestic commitments to tackle climate change,” Mr Timms said.

“This sends a strong message to both Donald Trump and opponents of action in the UK. 

“However, far too many of the policies to deliver on this welcome pledge are inadequate or absent.

“We welcome the commitment to leave the environment better than we found it, and fully transfer EU environmental protections to UK law, but we must ensure that these laws can't be rewritten later without full parliamentary scrutiny.”