Green government questioned

15 Jun 00
The government's commitment to environmental sustainability has been called into question by a member of the Commons' 'green' watchdog.

16 June 2000

Helen Brinton, a Labour member of the environmental audit committee, told the Sustainable Government 2000 conference in Manchester that support for environmental issues was lacking at the heart of government.

She said: 'Leadership has not been coming in any way from the prime minister. Environmental considerations are too often seen to be bolted on – the first thing to get rid of when the going gets tough.'

But government speakers stressed their commitment to sustainable development. Environment minister Michael Meacher told delegates that the government was committed to publishing a diverse range of information to show what progress is being made on social, economic and environmental issues.

Meacher added: 'Another step in the process will be creation of a new Sustainable Development Commission this summer. The commission will monitor our successes and highlight where more can be done.' He said that sustainable development should not be an 'optional extra' for policy-makers.

In fact, it is one of four 'cross-cutting' issues at the heart of the forthcoming Spending Review, according to the new deputy director of the Treasury's public services directorate, Lucy de Groot.

She said the revised Public Service Agreements to be announced during the review will be 'shorter and sharper' versions of the original PSAs, which were drawn up in line with government's stated objectives of increasing sustainable growth and employment, promoting fairness and opportunity and delivering efficient, modern public services.

'There will be fewer PSAs which will hopefully focus on things which really matter,' she added.

Roger Higman, head of the climate and transport team at Friends of the Earth, claimed that many ministers' interest in sustainable development was restricted to the issue of economic growth, meaning that many environmental issues were still ignored.

He called for changes including green taxes on pesticides, duty on aviation fuel, an end to fuel poverty, incentives to encourage organic farming and an end to massive road-building programmes.


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