Skip to main content
Where I Live
A-Z Index

BBC News

BBC Election 2005

Watch the BBC Election News
  • Election news alerts
  • Email services
  • Mobiles/PDAs
  • News for your site
Last Updated: Friday, 22 April, 2005, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
Environment 'ignored' in campaign
Gas emissions
Scientists want more focus on climate change
The environment is being left out of the election campaign spotlight by "irresponsible" political parties, campaign group Greenpeace has claimed.

The group said the issue was being ignored by all the main parties despite new warnings about climate change.

The Liberal Democrats are the only main party to have held a specific national launch for their green policies.

But Labour says green plans run through its whole manifesto and the Tories have published an environment manifesto.

Concerns that climate change is being ignored in the election come as new research published in the magazine Science suggests the glaciers of the Antarctic Peninsula are in rapid retreat.

The environment has suffered a low profile in the election so far.


Greenpeace UK Executive Director Stephen Tindale told BBC News: "I guess we should not be surprised given the track record of all the major parties in ignoring the environment when it comes to election time."

He had hoped it would be different at this election but instead the main parties were being "deeply irresponsible".

The Royal Society also says it is disappointed that climate change and biodiversity have not featured more prominently.

Its president and chief officers said in a statement: "We appeal to these three parties to devote more attention in the coming weeks to both these major issues, which will have a profound long-term effect not just on people in the UK, but across the world."

A busy street in Edinburgh
Edinburgh rejected a congestion charge

Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said while Labour and the Conservatives had agreed that climate change was one of the biggest environmental threats, "neither party has put any effort into raising the issue during the election".

Even though the Lib Dems had raised environmental issues during the campaign, Mr Juniper said he had "serious concerns" about the party's opposition to congestion charging in Edinburgh and the Whinash wind farm in Cumbria.

"Urgent decisions must soon be taken on transport, energy and industrial policy if the UK is to meet its carbon reduction targets," he said.

"Our political parties must move the debate away from the margins to drive home the urgency of the situation."

Opinion polls suggest the environment is low on voters' priorities for the election.

Broadcaster and conservationist Sir David Attenborough said it was very sad that parties did not discuss climate change more.

We.. reflect concerns about the environment and what we can do and what is necessary throughout our manifesto
Margaret Beckett
Environment secretary

But he said it was unsurprising as telling people they had to reduce their living standards to tackle a problem other nations were ignoring was not going to win immediate votes.

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett said the party's manifesto was the "greenest" in its history.

She said: "What we have done is to do what people who take great and serious interest in these issues are always urging political parties to do, which is to reflect concerns about the environment and what we can do and what is necessary throughout our manifesto.

"So we talk about climate change policy where we're talking about industry, where we're talking about housing, where we're talking about international affairs."

Mrs Beckett said the government had shown it was possible to have economic growth and improve the environment.

Labour was on course to meet the Kyoto target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 12.5% by 2010, although it is set to miss its own target of a 20% cut.

Mrs Beckett also said new nuclear power stations remained an option for tackling climate change in the future.

I don't think any of the Westminster three parties are giving this issue the importance it deserves
Keith Taylor
Green Party

The Conservatives stressed they had published a separate environment document alongside their main manifesto.

Tory policy chief David Cameron said: "To be serious on climate change, as well as being committed to the Kyoto targets, we have to look at business, transport and energy in the home."

Mr Cameron said his party had a comprehensive package, including plans to link vehicle excise duty to car emissions to encourage greener vehicles.

Liberal Democrat spokesman Norman Baker said Friends of the Earth had endorsed his party has having the greenest manifesto of the main parties.

"We have radical policies to cut energy emissions by 60% by 2050," he said.

He pointed to plans for financial incentives to encourage home energy efficiency and a boost to renewable energy sources.

But Green Party principal spokesman Keith Taylor said: "I don't think any of the Westminster three parties are giving this issue the importance it deserves."

He pledged his party would break the commitment to "big business and unfettered free trade" and oppose further nuclear plants.