Government given ‘red card’ for environment efforts

THE UK GOVERNMENT has been given a ‘red card’ by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) for failing to reduce air pollution, protect biodiversity and prevent flooding after it assessed green efforts made since 2010.

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Once elected as Prime Minister in May 2010, David Cameron stated that he wanted to be “the greenest government ever” and in 2011 the Government had started to make progress in some areas, by publishing a Natural Environment White Paper and establishing the Natural Capital Committee. However, the new report carried out by the EAC, which has assessed the 10 key environmental protection areas outlined in the National Audit Office’s review of Environmental Protection, has flagged three areas as ‘red’ (air pollution, biodiversity and flooding) and the remaining seven as ‘amber’.


The report found that emissions of a number of airborne pollutants had increased in 2013 and that the UK had failed to meet targets for nitrogen dioxide pollution in 34 of the 43 zones specified in an EU directive on dirty air.


Chair of the Committee, Joan Walley MP said: “A whole generation of young people in our cities will potentially have their health impaired by pollution before the Government meets air quality safety standards. That is not acceptable. We need to see much more urgent action in this area and we will be looking at this area in more detail when we publish the results of our inquiry later this year.”


In regards to biodiversity, the latest Sustainable Development Indicators show a deterioration in the counts for three out of four types of bird populations that are seen as key indicators for the state of the UK’s wildlife. The committee of MPs also found that invasive species, which harm native biodiversity, are on the rise and becoming more prevalent.


The final red care was given due to the 2.4 million properties across the UK which are still at risk of flooding from rivers or the sea and the 3 million from surface water. The report said that there was widespread and persistent flooding in the winter of 2013–14 and according to the Wildlife and Countryside Link, the Government’s development of natural flood alleviation measures were “consistently poor”.


The Government has strongly disagreed with the EAC assessment stating: “We are deeply committed to improving our natural environment. That is why we will be spending more than £3.2bn – compared to £2.7bn in the last parliament – on protecting the country from floods.


“We are also working to improve air and water quality; and to protect wildlife habitats both on land and at sea.”


The report comes as the main political parties prepare for their manifesto-setting party conferences and the Committee has called for the creation of new legal commitments to protect the environment. They have recommended that these are overseen by a new ‘Office for Environmental Responsibility’ to ensure all Government policies are compatible with those commitments.