A challenge to all UK parties to make Britain greener

GB imageThis post is by Dr Mike Clarke, chief executive of the RSPB.

Manifestos are sometimes important for their differences, but it’s when they’re the same that they’re really powerful.

This is especially true for cross-cutting issues like the environment, which affect us all.

These rare political moments stand out. Take the 1940s wartime council convened to protect the UK’s natural environment, with politicians of all persuasions coming together in the rubble to create the laws for protected areas that are still the foundation of UK conservation. Or think of the Climate Change Act 2008, when all parties united to create world-leading legislation for tackling global warming.

Seven really big ideas
Today, we at the RSPB, together with Green Alliance and eight other leading environment and conservation organisations, are calling on all political parties to adopt our practical proposals for a greener Britain, not just for its own sake, but to help build a strong economy, closer communities and advance British interests around the world.

When Britain is faced by European-wide economic weakness, housing shortages, rising household energy costs, international climate change and resource shocks, the government must recognise that a healthy environment is crucial to solving all these challenges.

Decisive environmental action requires more than one or two token green measures. That’s why the Greener Britain report is a valuable document. It brings together organisations with different perspectives in search of a set of common ideas to change the world for the better, for the British people and our environment. Collectively, we offer a huge range of policy expertise and experience from groups representing millions of members and supporters

The result is seven really big ideas to create a greener Britain. They range from the top to the bottom of the way we run our country and interact with the world.

From protection of the seas to more power for communities
At the international level, we’re calling for a protected area in the South Atlantic, to safeguard fish stocks and sea life of international importance. A vast area of new protection, twice the size of the UK, would cost just £400,000 to enforce but bring huge global benefits.

Nationally, a new Nature and Well-being Act would be crucial for a fairer, healthier society. Access to nature could save the health service £2.1 billion a year and strong ecosystems provide vital benefits like flood prevention and climate change mitigation.

The UK is falling behind its obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity at an alarming rate. On Wednesday, Sir David Attenborough will open the Conference for Nature 2014, which will highlight some of the positive action businesses and civil society are already taking. It is now time for politicians to look up from the day-to-day of politics and imagine how we want our future to be with a long term plan to protect our natural world.

We recognise that often the best placed people to protect our environment are those who know it best and will benefit most from it, ie local communities. That’s why we’re proposing that people should have more freedom on planning and spending, to come up with ideas for more sustainable transport and infrastructure options for their area.

I hope that, just as our organisations have come together to create these goals, all political parties will unite behind them in their manifestos. It would demonstrate that they are listening and focused on what’s best for our, and the country’s, well-being. And it would serve to mark out the next parliament as a period where we have moved beyond the crisis, to a time when passing a better environment onto the next generation becomes a priority.


  • A good start will be to shut down all the AGR nuclear reactors; they are cooled by carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Then support onshore wind and solar on all UK coastal nuclear sites, followed by offshore wind, wave, tidal and hydro power. Lastly link into the new EU smart grid system. And rule out new nuclear anywhere in the UK.

  • All the efforts to make things better will fail completely unless the issue of human population impact is considered. We should all be brought up to consider voluntary family planning and the size of our families. This will be of more benefit to wildlife than any other proposal.

    • I agree completely with Gene. The Green Alliance need to get real and not be afraid to tackle to problem of over population.
      “There is no major problem facing our planet that would not be easier to solve if there were fewer people and no problem that does not become harder — and ultimately impossible to solve — with ever more. And yet there seems to be a taboo on bringing the subject into the open” – Sir David Attenborough

  • You cannot have a greener Britain without a population policy.

    • Yes! Yes! Yes! And the ONLY political party in the UK that has one, published and easily accessible on their website is the Green Party.
      But boy do they hide this light under a bushell!
      And worse still, I learn that they are still arguing amongst themselves about keeping it, weakening it or abandoning it, when the truth is – it is at least 10 years out of date.
      The planet in a far worse state now, and has almost a billion more people on it!
      It badly needs toughening up not abandoning!
      BUT, at least it is a first for a UK political party – They do have a Population Policy.

  • What about population Growth?
    Why no mention of this?
    Its not much use reducing our environmental footprints if we keep increasing the number of feet!

  • This is ridiculous without reference to the exponential increase of population, which has been eliminating wildlife of every sort all over the planet for our life time and is continuing at a faster rate as the planet is full. we should be aiming for a smaller population not allowing it to expand faster than we can increase food supply let alone preserve space for the diminishing wild lifeI wouldlike an answer please

  • Gene Masters is absolutely right, but population control is only one element. We, and the political parties in particular, must abandon the notion that a principal aim of economic policy should be constant GDP growth – unless and until we have completely decoupled “growth” from consumption of non-renewable resources and excessive consumption of renewable ones. Get that right, and virtually all the objectives of “Greener Britain” will follow. Read e.g. Dietz and O’Neill “Enough is Enough” (Routledge/Earthscan, 2013), and Tim Jackson’s “Prosperity without Growth” (Earthscan, 2009).

  • You have it spot on Solchap!
    Less people still consuming far too much is still not going to be sustainable in the long term!
    Please consider supporting CASSE – http://www.steadystate.org
    They have the ONLY solution.

  • By the way, I also agree with Pete Bloyce and Gene Masters!

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