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Monday, 26 August, 2002, 08:08 GMT 09:08 UK
Blair's green record condemned
"No progress" on transport and waste management
A leading environmental expert has strongly criticised UK Prime Minister Tony Blair for "lacking leadership" on green issues.

Jonathon Porritt, who chairs the UK's Sustainable Development Commission, said the government's domestic record on the issue is seriously lacking and he accused the prime minister of "naive adulation" of the business world.

Jonathan Porritt
Porritt: UK has done well on some issues

His criticism comes as Mr Blair prepares to address the World Development Summit in Johannesburg.

Mr Porritt, a former head of Friends of the Earth-UK, is now programme director of Forum for the Future, which works on ways to promote sustainable living.

He told the BBC's Breakfast With Frost programme the leadership in this area was "patchy, piecemeal, incremental and not done on a strategic level".

He added: "If you compare that leadership on sustainable development with the kind of leadership we have seen from this government on Northern Ireland, on health issues and on public services in general, we are talking about a different league of leadership."


And in an interview with British Sunday newspaper, The Observer, he said sustainable development has not been a central concern of Mr Blair's.

Mr Porritt said: "It's demeaning and dead bad for democracy to see any government so uncritically endorsing corporate perspectives on the global economy, or on the best way of alleviating poverty."

Mr Porritt described the government's performance on domestic environmental issues as deeply flawed.

Protesters gathered in Johannesburg
Anti-privatisation protesters at the summit
He said: "There are really serious areas where their performance has been deplorable.

"On transport and waste management they have made no progress at all in the five years since Labour was in power.

"There just hasn't been the level of quality leadership needed on these two difficult areas."

But by comparison with most other European countries, he said, the UK had made creditable strides on tackling climate change, increasing development aid, and giving a lead on debt relief for the poorest countries.

He also praised British efforts to transform the European Union's common agricultural policy.

A Korean protester dressed as President Bush
Bush has received more flak than Blair
Compared with previous UK governments, Mr Porritt said, this was the best on sustainable development, and among a handful which could report environmental progress since the 1992 Rio earth summit.

Countering his accusations, Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett, on her way to head up the UK delegation at the summit, said that Mr Blair was "actively involved" in policies on sustainable development.

She told the BBC1 Breakfast With Frost programme: "Mr Blair - yes ok, he will not be in Johannesburg for all the detailed negotiations, that's not his job. He's there to put the final seal on it.

"But he's been working on these issues for a year, 18 months and more, and very actively so, and promoting initiatives that are Britain's own specific speciality in terms of energy, water and so on."

'Corporate accountability'

The organisers of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which starts on Monday, hope it will find a way to tackle the abject poverty of millions of people while conserving the world's natural resources.

The sceptics fear it may prove at best a talking-shop, and possibly a diplomatic disaster.

British officials say they are cautiously hopeful, but they pointedly refuse to speculate on the prospects for success.

Mike Childs, Earth Summit coordinator for Friends of the Earth said Mr Blair could "start showing some leadership by going to the Earth Summit earlier and staying longer, rather than just popping by for five minutes".

"He could also commit the government to supporting the call for a corporate accountability treaty to prevent the social and environmental damage being causing by some multi-nationals," he added.

Sir Jonathon Porritt and John Gummer
"Either we grow sustainably or we don't grow at all"
The BBC's Norman Smith
"Mr Blair is under pressure to show he does take environmental issues seriously"

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See also:

11 Aug 02 | Politics
09 Aug 02 | Politics
14 Feb 02 | Science/Nature

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