Six weeks ago I had a particularly critical look at the antics used by David Cameron and Boris Johnson to delay tough new air pollution rules to avoid the Mayor having to pay out £300m in fines to the European Union. (see http://bit.ly/f2wB4j)
Now word via Whitehall has come to me that a recent government initiative to curb ” red tape” to help business is about to be used as a further battering ram by the coalition to undermine the so called commitment by both parties to a greener Britain.
My old Guardian colleague Allegra Stratton has already exposed the government’s move to incorporate all 278 environmental laws into the review (http://bit.ly/j6eVY6) . And it has alarmed environmentalists.
Whitehall sources are telling me that the way civil servants in the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have been instructed to review the laws is extremely detrimental to green campaigners.
Effectively they have been told to concentrate on the BURDEN green legislation and regulations place on business and ignore the BENEFITS it brings to general health and well-being.
And this is from two ministries, business and energy and climate change , headed by two of the Liberal Democrats in the Cabinet, Vince Cable and Chris Huhne.
Given the review cover issues like climate change, national parks, wild life protection, waste regulations, to name but a few areas, the only people thrilled by this will be libertarian think tanks like the Adam Smith Institute and the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party.
If we pursue this line of argument we would never have bothered with energy conservation, banned lead in petrol ( they all cost money to business in the short-term) and been quite happy to keep landfill going and see animals and plants become extinct. Luckily some of this stuff – like phasing out landfill , clean beaches and air pollution, depend on directives from the EU, so even the most brown nosed civil servant in Defra is going to have difficulty telling his political bosses it is OK to forget the benefit to the environment.
And the government seem to have forgotten that not all business will be pleased if it is successful. There are 880,000 jobs in the environment industry dependent on existing regulation.
As Adrian Wilkes, chairman of the Environmental Industries Commission, points out: “This is a potentially major threat to the UK’s environmental industry, which lives and dies by the regulatory framework. Government intervention is a vital ingredient in the creation of the environmental markets of the future.”
So once again, just like the row over privatising the rest of the forests defeated by the campaigning group 38 degrees, the coalition has put its foot in it. Unless that is, they never really believed in the green agenda in the first place.