, 05 December 2011

Author Tony Whitbread

The concern about George Osborne’s Autumn Statement is not limited just to the Sussex Wildlife Trust. Environmental bodies around the country find it incredible, especially against the background of other work being done in government. One illustration of this is the letter below, written to the Prime Minister by the Chief Executives of several major environmental Non Government Organisations, including the Wildlife Trusts:

Dear Sir,

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 on Tuesday, upon hearing the Autumn Budget 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challenge", sudden cuts to solar subsidies, and its ill-conceived planning reforms, the Government is continuing an out-of-date approach that casts regulation and the environment as enemies to growth.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, as well as of our national well-being? 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 policy 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 you Mr Cameron to show leadership and champion long-term, sustainable economic policies that will bring much-needed prosperity without destroying all that millions hold dear.

Signed by:

Mike Clarke, RSPB, chief executive

Shaun Spiers, CPRE, chief executive

John Sauven, Greenpeace, executive director

Stephanie Hilborne, Wildlife Trusts, chief executive

Andy Atkins, Friends of the Earth, executive director

There is a stark miss-match between the need to take proper account of our natural capital on the one hand and the Chancellors apparent desire to consider this as a ridiculous cost on the other. His desire to take away the “gold plating of EU rules” is perhaps just a symptom of a Chancellor who has missed the point.

Maybe it would be a good idea if Sussex Wildlife Trust members and readers of this blog wrote to their local MPs to say what you feel about this proposed diminishing of the protection of our most important wildlife sites.

For a list of MPs and their contact details please click here and enter your postcode.

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