7 ways the Lib Dems have failed the environment

With a track record like this, how do the Lib Dems expect us to take seriously their claim to protect the environment and halt climate change?

With a track record like this, how do the Lib Dems expect us to take seriously their claim to protect the environment and halt climate change?

Not only is it no-news season, but it’s also less than ten months until the next election. That explains the latest raft of speeches and announcements from Labour and the Tories. Now it’s the turn of the Lib Dems.

Environment minister Dan Power announced yesterday that, if the Lib Dems stayed in power, they would place Britain’s forests in a protected trust to stop them being privatised. They would also, according to the Guardian, aim to plant 700,000 trees a year and bring in statutory targets on air and water quality.

The question is, if they’re expecting they can do it under a Tory government, why haven’t they done it already?

That is not to dismiss the idea. But to accept the Lib Dems’ pledge at face value you have to forget all the other environmental catastrophes the party have helped push through. Most, clearly, were Tory-initiated; but this wouldn’t have stopped the Lib Dems being able to exert pressure or veto them.


Where were the Lib Dems last week when the government announced plans to allow fracking in national parks and World Heritage sites? Despite slightly strengthened protections, homeowners have lost their right to prevent frackers drilling under their homes without permission while huge swathes of the country will be opened up for gas extraction.

Recycling rates

Recycling rates under this government have plateaued. We’re way behind the rest of Europe and, according to Defra’s own statistics “The rate of increase in the last year is insufficient to meet the 50 per cent EU target by 2020”. This is a clear failure – as is the enormous rise in use of plastic bags.

recycling rates

CO2 emissions rise

Outsourcing appears to be the status quo for this government – even for climate change. A report by the Climate Change Committee last year said real CO2 emissions were rising because the UK was importing more goods that pollute other countries. Meanwhile, the setting of a ‘decarbonisation target’ which would limit power station emissions has been held off until after the election – essentially dropping the idea altogether.

Green levies

Despite some mild Lib Dem resistance, the government’s cut to green levies – what previously funded massive insulation and energy efficiency schemes – went through without much trouble. Danny Alexander said he wouldn’t ‘compromise’ on them. Looks like they did. And if they’re too toothless to successfully fight off that, how will the Lib Dems ever get us towards reaching our necessary climate change targets?

‘Green crap’

Where were the Lib Dems when David Cameron and George Osborne were ranting against ‘green crap’ and pledging to abolish ‘costly’ green policies? There’s been barely a week over the past year when cabinet ministers have not been railing against the environment, spurred on no doubt by UKIP. But in a cabinet where collective responsibility rules (i.e. statements must be agreed by Silence is telling.

Renewable energy subsidies slashed

Not only were guaranteed prices for renewable energy slashed when the government came to power, but they enshrined it in a mechanism to annually cut it further – most recently putting anaerobic digestion plants at risk.

‘Bonfire of the quangos’

Former Friends of the Earth chair Jonathon Porritt writes: “One of the first things [the coalition] government did was to get rid of the Sustainable Development Commission – the one body with the resources and independent stature to do precisely that.” Meanwhile other public organisations such as the Environment Agency, charged with protecting the country from floods, have faced huge cuts to their budgets through the Lib Dem-backed austerity programme.

With a track record like this, how do the Lib Dems expect us to take seriously their claim to protect the environment and halt climate change?

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