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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Environmentalists have become disillusioned with the government¿s failure to deliver"
 real 56k

Michael Meacher, Environment Secretary
"The key point is... massive increases in public expenditure"
 real 28k

Lord Melchett, Director of Greenpeace
"It's a significant first step"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 24 October, 2000, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Blair defends green record
Wind turbines
The PM is calling for cleaner energy
Prime Minister Tony Blair has flagged up a £100m boost for green policies as he issued a call for greens and business to work together for the good of the environment.

His call came in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry and Green Alliance in which he underlined his commitment to the environment following sustained criticism that the government has failed to take green issues seriously.


We should see protecting the environment as a business opportunity

Tony Blair
Mr Blair rubbished media reports that he had intended to use the speech to attack green groups for not engaging more with the government, telling his audience: "I do not in the least intend to attack the green movement. Nor do I not think there are no votes in environmental issues."

The new money is made up of a £50m "carbon trust" to encourage cleaner technologies such as like wind and solar power and £50m from the government's New Opportunities Fund to encourage research in renewable energy.

Mr Blair said: "I want to invite environmentalists and business to join me and push green issues back up the political agenda - re-awaken the challenge - and I want to do it in constructive partnership government, business, the green movement and the public.

'All talk'

Conservative leader William Hague attacked the government's environmental policy as "all talk, no action".

He added that the real test of the prime minister's green credentials was not whether or not he issued speeches on the subject but rather who he favoured on issues such as protection of greenfield sites, GM crops and renewable energy.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy dismissed Mr Blair's speech, saying it offered no new initiatives or policies.

"Like so much of Tony Blair's premiership, this speech is void of any real vision or leadership," he said.

"He continues to ghettoise the environment as an add-on extra rather than a central tenet of everything the government does. This is not a sustainable approach to running the country."

'Business opportunity'

The prime minister said the concerns of business and the environment could work in patrnership, insisting "we should see protecting the environment as a business opportunity - otherwise history shows us the environment risks being the loser."

Addressing the charge that green priorities were not, contrary to Mr Blair's promise in opposition, at the centre of the government's agenda, the prime minister insisted "no other British government has put the environment at the heart of its affairs as we have done".

Listing environmental problems such as climate change and the destruction and natural habitats the prime minister said: "We are not going to turn this round unless we engage the whole political system."

"But we are not going to engage consumers without incentives," he added. He called on business, scientists and environmentalists to form a coalition to try and harness consumer demand rather than stifle it.

'Leading the world'

Speaking ahead of the speech, Environment Minister Michael Meacher also sought to defend the government's green record, claiming it was 'leading the world'.

"It has already been at the heart of Labour's policy, and you can tell that by the climate change programme, which we are going to be publishing in a few weeks time, where we are leading the world on the overarching environmental issue," he said.

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See also:

23 Oct 00 | Sci/Tech
Labour: A green government?
16 Oct 00 | Talking Politics
Labour attacked on environment
30 Sep 98 | Labour Conference
Green agenda gets tough on pollution
20 Sep 00 | Liberal Democrats
Lib Dems 'the greenest of all'
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