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Fury at Conservative Government’s dismantling of environmental policies 8 August 2015

Posted by George Crozier in Environment.
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Forest Hill Liberal Democrats have joined a chorus of anger over the new majority Conservative Government’s abandonment of environmental policies introduced and promoted by the previous Coalition Government.

In just three months since the general election the Conservatives have:

  • Scrapped subsidies for onshore wind and commercial solar – the two cheapest forms of clean energy
  • Slashed the energy efficiency budget and scrapped the Green Deal – a programme set up by the Liberal Democrats in Coalition to help people make their homes more energy efficient
  • Ended the tax break for clean cars
  • Abolished rules on zero carbon housing
  • Lowered taxes on polluting firms
  • Announced the part-privatisation of the Green Investment Bank
  • Scrapped the exemption from the Climate Change Levy for renewable energy (described by Friends of the Earth as like putting an alcohol tax on apple juice!)

They have also:

  • Lifted a ban on bee-slaying neonicotinoid pesticides
  • Reversed a pledge to keep fracking out of nationally important nature sites
  • Announced support for a ‘review’ of two key European wildlife laws, the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive

The Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth has called it “a grotesque 90 days of ideological enviro-bashing”, observing “David Cameron’s Conservative Government took aim at anything green and shot to kill”. (You can read his full article here – he pulls no punches.)

The heads of 10 of Britain’s leading green groups, including National Trust, Greenpeace and the RSPB, have written to David Cameron calling the cutting or watering-down of 10 key environmental policies woeful and shocking.

Back in April we highlighted the success of the Lib Dems in delivering on environmental policies in the Coalition Government despite opposition from the Conservatives. With the Lib Dems in Government, investment in renewable energy was more than double that under the previous Labour administration, and for the past three years was the highest of any country in Europe. The amount of renewable energy being generated also more than doubled.

Forest Hill Lib Dem campaigner Margot Wilson said: “It is desperately sad to see the strong environmental policies and achievements of the Coalition Government, such as support for renewables and zero carbon housing, being dismantled by the Conservatives now that they are in government on their own.

“Perhaps the loopiest change of all is extending the Climate Change Levy – a tax specifically created to penalise and so reduce carbon pollution – to low and zero-carbon renewable energy, totally undermining its purpose. What was a green tax is being turned into a tax on all energy, dirty or clean.”

The green economy has been a British success story in recent years – it grew 5% a year during the recession – but these changes will undermine it and make businesses less likely to invest in green projects going forward.

For example, waste management firm Veolia invested £10m in a project which draws gas out of landfill sites – on the promise that they’d be getting a subsidy until 2023. But the incentives are to be cancelled eight years early. A company spokesman told the BBC: “We’re very angry that the Government have made a complete U-turn on subsidies that were agreed until 2023 with only 1 month’s notice. This isn’t the way to run a government and give business the confidence to invest.”

Swedish energy company Vattenfall has said it is scrapping a planned windfarm in Lincolnshire, blaming the government’s changes to planning laws for increasing risk to the project.

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: “For five years we fought sceptical Tories to ensure we were the greenest Government ever by investing billions in renewables and setting out ambitious climate change targets. By quietly dumping the Green Deal, David Cameron has yet again shown how little he cares about the future of the planet.

“The Prime Minister has not so much hugged a husky as led it behind the coal shed, shot it in the head and told his Energy Secretary it has gone to live on a farm in the country.”

Former Friends of the Earth Director Tony Juniper has commented: “the last few months mark the worst period for environmental policy that I have seen in my 30 years’ work in this field.” He attributes it to “an anti-environment ideology based on the view that ecological goals interfere with the market, increase costs and are against the interests of people”.

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