|The following two open letters, published in the Observer and elsewhere today, are a direct response to things mentioned in the Chancer’s (sic) Autumn Statement last week. As such, they do not even touch on the litany of environmental mismanagement dished up by this Government elsewhere, such as the fracking issue.
For 15 months, we have observed with growing concern this government’s failure to live up to its promise to be the “greenest ever”. Now, following the chancellor’s autumn statement, we can say that the coalition is on a path to becoming the most environmentally destructive government to hold power in this country since the modern environmental movement was born. As George Osborne sat down, our political culture crossed a line and became a little more like that which dominates Washington DC. We know from experience not least by observing events across the Atlantic – that when such a line is crossed it is extremely difficult to retrieve lost ground.
The chancellor has proposed:
Tax breaks for the country’s most polluting industries.
A revision of the basic safeguards that protect our most precious wildlife sites from development.
A major expansion of airport capacity in the south-east of England
Support for a major expansion of the road network.
Aggressive implementation of a new presumption in favour of development in the planning system.
Osborne has proclaimed that protecting the environment is against the public interest something no senior politician in this country has done in recent history.
George Monbiot author; Jonathon Porritt, Tony Juniper former directors, Friends of the Earth; Joss Garman co-founder, Plane Stupid; Tamsin Omond co-ordinator, Save England’s Forests campaign; Caroline Lucas MP Green Party leader
The environmental movement has spoken out repeatedly against policies that put short-term profit ahead of our countryside and wildlife, eroding our natural capital and quality of life, but rarely have we been as incredulous as we were last Tuesday, hearing the autumn statement. The stunning disregard shown for the value of the natural environment not only flies in the face of popular opinion but goes against everything the government said in June when it launched two major pieces of environmental policy the natural environment white paper and the England biodiversity strategy.
It is increasingly clear that society needs a new economic model that accounts properly for our natural capital. Yet with this statement, its “red-tape challenge”, sudden cuts to solar subsidies and its ill-conceived planning reforms, the government is continuing an out-of-date approach that casts regulation and the environment as enemies to growth. Is the environment really an obstacle to economic productivity or is it in fact the very basis of it? Not a hard question to answer and there is an increasingly powerful body of evidence that demonstrates this, including the government’s own national ecosystem assessment.
How can the prime minister tolerate this gaping intellectual and political inconsistency and walk with open eyes down a path that condemns future generations to a lower quality of life and to a massive and costly struggle to rebuild the country’s natural riches? We appeal to him to champion long-term, sustainable economic policies that will bring much-needed prosperity without destroying all that millions hold dear.
Mike Clarke chief executive, RSPB; Shaun Spiers chief executive, Campaign to Protect Rural England; John Sauven executive director, Greenpeace; Stephanie Hilborne chief executive, Wildlife Trusts; Andy Atkins executive director, Friends of the Earth