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Muddled government thinking means that the UK is losing the green war

A leaked report showing that the UK is failing to meet key environmental targets has prompted one commentator to write “Britain is losing the battle to become a sustainable, environmentally friendly nation because of government failure to put its green rhetoric into practice’ adding that within Europe, the UK was the second biggest polluter and had little chance of meeting a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse has emissions by 2010. With less than 2% of energy currently used from sustainable and renewable sources (rising to just 5% by 2020) the Report from the Sustainable Development Commission shows that Britain is losing the green war. Government policies – from a failure to implement simple energy saving plans (cavity wall insulation for example) to reducing landfill to muddled plans on biodiversity – all add to Britain’s ‘Green Shame’. The report highlights what could be done: home insulation is extremely effective in reducing energy use and energy bills – but the Report says that with 8.5 million households are still without cavity wall insulation and Britain needs significant improvements to meet climate change targets; with domestic waste the report acknowledges that there have already been marked improvements – the national recycling rate has reached 34.5%, but more is needed to be done as the rate needs to reach 40% by 2010 and the UK is still heavily reliant on landfill; with biodiversity, whilst many sites of Special Scientific Interest (80%) are in a ‘favourable’ or ‘recovering’ condition sustainable development issues risk being sidelined by an overriding focus on economic growth and a lack of cross government action means that many non-protected areas are vulnerable; and finally on air quality despite an overall fall in air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and sulpher dioxide, twenty UK cities still fail to meet EU legislation  for particulates and the UK risks missing key targets. One example of just how muddled thinking  is damaging the UK’s move to sustainability is the news that the £170 million Oxford Renewable Energy Fund, based in the UK, will not be investing in UK renewable energy projects due to red tape and regulatory barriers to green energy projects in the UK. The fund’s management said that a lack of political will, poor energy infrastructure and lengthy planning procedures means that the fund could not generate sufficient returns from investing in the UK with CEO Hadley Barrett saying “there is an awful lot confusion for renewable investors in the UK where the Government first gives its support then takes it away and cannot make its mind up on policy” adding  “if you are doing it right you can make very good money out of renewable energy, but certainly not in the UK”. “We are not eco-warriors” said Mr Barrett, saying “this is about making money from renewable energy in a sustainable way – but that is not possible in the UK at the moment. With BP closing its Alternative Energy office in London it seems investors are moving to other parts of Europe and to the USA where President Obama’s is pumping billions of dollars into new alternative energy projects. The UK needs an estimated £112 billion of new investment to generate power, upgrade the network, install smart meters and reduce carbon emissions.

Are we loosing the green war? by Jonathan Owen and Economic growth at all costs is just not sustainable by Jonathon Porritt can be found in the Independent, 28th June 209 pages 8 and 9.

Red tape in UK defeats eco fund by Rowena Mason  The Sunday Telegraph 28th June 2009