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Sunday, 11 August, 2002, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
UK's green policies condemned
Michael Meacher
Meacher: "Lone voice in the wilderness"
Green campaigners have backed Environment Minister Michael Meacher's claims that the government has failed to put sustainable development at the heart of its policies

Friends of the Earth (FoE) said Mr Meacher was right to accuse his colleagues at the top of the Labour Party of failing to take difficult decisions on green issues.

Mr Meacher launched his attack after reportedly being left off the official team going to the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, only to be reinstated at a later date.

In an apparent swipe at Mr Meacher, International Development Secretary Clare Short insisted the Earth Summit was primarily about tackling Third World poverty and not environmental issues.

'No bones'

In an interview in the Sunday Times Mr Meacher claimed that he was a "lone voice in the wilderness" of the cabinet when it came to the environment.


The summit isn't about Britain's transport policy

Clare Short
He said: "I make no bones about it. I don't think the government as a whole is yet ready to take the magnitude of decisions I think are necessary."

He indicated the sort of direction that he wanted to take policy by pointing to a little publicised European initiative to ban big engine cars from city centres.

Mr Meacher also expressed deep reservations about a new airport planned for wildlife haven Cliffe in north Kent.

'Catastrophic'

Friends of the Earth director Charles Secrett praised Mr Meacher's stance.

He said: "The government goes on about the importance of sustainable development - but when it comes to the crunch, green issues are usually either compromised or completely ignored. "

Mr Secrett continued: "This month's Earth Summit is a golden opportunity to tackle environment and development problems in an economically responsible way.

"But without firm commitment it will be a catastrophic failure."

'Biggest challenge'

But on Sunday Ms Short poured scorn on the idea that the 174-nation summit was about nothing more than "how we tidy up our environment in the rich countries".


If he was removed, or even moved, it would be a direct snub to environmental campaigners

Malcolm Bruce
She told BBC Radio 4's the World This Weekend: "This isn't an environmental summit. It's a summit about sustainable development.

"The biggest challenge to the world is to guarantee to the poor of the world development in a planet that we keep sustainable."

Questioned directly on Mr Meacher's comments, she retorted: "The summit isn't about Britain's transport policy.

"It is about the sustainable management of the whole world's resources."

Strengthened role

Mr Meacher was also praised by Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Malcolm Bruce, who warned that the minister could not be ignored.

Mr Bruce said: "If he was removed, or even moved, it would be a direct snub to environmental campaigners."

Environmental groups have also objected to companies with a poor environmental track record taking part in the Earth Summit.

They include Sir Robert Wilson, executive chairman of mining company Rio-Tinto, which is in the middle of Australia's highest profile environmental row, according to The Observer.

The newspaper said other British guests attending the Earth Summit are Thames Water chief executive Bill Alexander and leading mining company Anglo American non-executive director Chris Fay.

Thames Water has been prosecuted by the Environment Agency for pollution more than 20 times since 1996.

Anglo American, meanwhile, has been accused of pollution in Zambia.

A Thames Water spokesman told the paper: "We are committed to sustainability."

And a spokesman for Anglo American said: "We take our environmental performance extremely seriously."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"He's decided to tell the government some home truths"
Conservative MP John Horam
"The delivery on policy has been extremely poor"
See also:

30 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
15 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
08 Aug 02 | Politics
06 Aug 02 | Politics
09 Aug 02 | Politics

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