Environmental groups call on the Prime Minister to intervene as ten green policies are scrapped

Within the first three months of the new government ten different environmental policies have been watered down or scrapped, according to analysis by a group of leading UK environment organisations.

These range from support for renewable energy technology and tax exemptions for low carbon vehicles, which have existed for over a decade, to privatisation of the Green Investment Bank and the scrapping of the Green Deal, the establishment of both being achievements celebrated by the last Conservative-led government.

Protection for the natural environment has also been weakened with a u-turn on a ban on fracking in protected areas. And the UK has cited an ‘emergency’ to exempt itself from an EU-wide ban on neonicotinoids.

Environmental leaders have called on the Prime Minister, as a matter of urgency, to clarify his government’s approach to environmental protection and climate security in what is a vital year for action on climate change.

In a public letter to the Prime Minister, written in response to the findings, the heads of the UK’s leading environmental groups said:

“We welcomed the Conservative manifesto commitment to ‘being the first generation to leave the natural environment of England in a better state than that in which we found it’. Unfortunately, ten green policies which could have helped you to achieve these goals have been cancelled or weakened in the past three months. These policies were developed over many years, often with cross party backing, and with the support and involvement of many businesses and charities. Only one of these decisions, to end subsidies for onshore wind, was a commitment from your manifesto. We have, as yet, seen no positive new measures introduced to restore the health of our environment or grow the low carbon economy.”

Responses to the analysis:

Dame Helen Ghosh, director-general, National Trust, said:
“We are keen to play our part in meeting the big environmental challenges of today – climate change and the catastrophic decline in wildlife and habitats. We see their impact day by day in our places.  But Government has to play its role in setting the right regulatory and fiscal framework – and the recent shift in policy positions is worrying.”

Shaun Spiers, chief executive, CPRE, said:
“The Government’s commitment to neighbourhood planning and making better use of brownfield land is very welcome, but its overall record on the environment has been woeful. The Prime Minister clearly cares about the countryside and the wider environment, and recognises that strong environmental policies support a strong economy. He must now assert himself and ensure that his government lives up to its promises rather than taking decisions that we all regret in the long run.”

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, chief executive, The Wildlife Trusts, said:
“This list of recent policy reversals is shocking, and shows disregard for the health and wellbeing of current and future generations, as well as for the environment we all depend on. The Prime Minister should reset the government’s path as a matter of urgency, by reinstating these policies and bringing in truly visionary legislation like a Nature and Wellbeing Act.”

Craig Bennett, chief executive, Friends of the Earth, said:
“This all out attack on green policies undermines UK efforts to tackle climate change ahead of global talks in Paris, and sets back our renewables industry when other countries are speeding towards clean energy and green jobs.

“Over-turning the science-led ban on toxic pesticides may be illegal as well as irresponsible at a time when bees need protection.”

David Nussbaum, chief executive, WWF UK, said:
“This watering down of environmental commitments is short-sighted and short termist. As the world races ahead to develop new green technologies the government’s international standing is at risk unless the Prime Minister takes up the reins of his government and shows he is serious about establishing a long term framework for investment in renewables and positioning the UK as a leader in protecting the environment.  Thankfully – so early in this new parliament – he still has the opportunity to do so.”

Mike Clarke, chief executive, RSPB, said:
“The Conservative manifesto made a moving statement that our moors and meadows, wildlife and nature, air and water are a crucial part of our national identity and make our country what it is. For this to be credible, we will need to see a long term plan for the natural environment matched by actions across government, not a legacy of empty rhetoric.”

John Sauven, executive director, Greenpeace UK, said: 
“Since the election, we have been moving from the ‘greenest government ever’ to the ‘greyest government ever’. This is not the mandate this government put to the country in the general election. And it will be a hard sell to the international community at the climate talks in Paris at the end of the year. Without any real domestic action to tackle climate change this government will lose any credibility to influence others.”

Stephen Joseph, chief executive, Campaign for Better Transport, said: 
“The changes announced by the Chancellor to vehicle excise duty have largely removed the financial incentive to buy a more efficient and less polluting car and fly in the face of the government’s environmental commitments.”

Analysis of changed policies

Changes to National Trust staff salary pension scheme announced

The National Trust has today (29 July 2015) announced its intention to close its final salary pension scheme (NTRDBS) to future accrual on 31 March 2016.  This follows a period of consultation with members of staff and the Trust’s recognised trades union Prospect.

The final salary pension scheme closed to new entrants in 2003 and therefore the proposed changes will impact around 1,200 members of staff or approximately 16% of our permanent workforce.

The closure comes as a result of the most recent valuation of the scheme in April 2014 which showed a deficit of £116m (as at 5 April 2014).  This figure has increased from £69m since our last three-year valuation in 2011.

Whilst we are going ahead with our plans to close our final salary pension scheme we have taken a number of steps to mitigate the potential impact on members of staff.  These include delaying implementation until 31 March 2016 and deciding not to remove the link with final salary.  As the result of the feedback we received during consultation we have also made positive changes to our original proposals for death-in-service and ill-health benefits from 31 March 2016.

On closure of the final salary pension scheme members of staff will be eligible to join 2,500 colleagues in our defined contribution pension scheme. In this scheme we match any contributions members of staff make between 4% and 10% although they can choose to contribute more if they so wish.

In order to safeguard accrued benefits we have agreed with the Pension Scheme Trustees to significantly increase our deficit recovery payments from £3m a year now to £8.5m a year from 2016. This will increase by CPI+1% year on year until 2029.

These proposed changes do not impact on the benefits of existing pensioners or deferred members of the defined benefit scheme.

Not so common: where is the Common Blue?

Conservationists are seeking the help of millions of holidaymakers heading to the coast this summer in a bid to solve the mystery of a disappearing butterfly.

Common Blue at Cogden, National Trust beach in Dorset. Credit John Newbold

Common Blue at Cogden, National Trust beach in Dorset. Credit John Newbold

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National Trust responds to Amber Rudd’s speech on climate change

In her first major speech as Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Amber Rudd has today set out the government’s approach to combating climate change.

A National Trust spokesperson said: “Climate change is having major impacts on the natural and historic environment. We aim to play our part in reducing emissions from our own activities through our renewables programme. We want to see strong leadership from the government abroad. This must be backed up by an ambitious set of polices to reduce emissions and the impact of climate change at home.”

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Thank you National Lottery players!

Today the National Trust is taking stock and saying a big #ThankYouThursday to everyone that has purchased a National Lottery ticket and indirectly helped us to complete some amazing projects in our gardens over the past 21 years.

In fact, across 17 garden related projects we have received an incredible £19.07 million. Continue reading

HS2 Committee unlikely to accept fully bored tunnel through the Chilterns AONB

Mr Robert Syms MP, Chair of the High Speed Rail Bill Select Committee, delivered a statement on 21st July to the effect that the Select Committee is strongly of the view that the case for a long tunnel has not been made, and that without prejudicing the arguments the Committee may hear from future petitioners the Committee believes it is unlikely that an overwhelming case will be made out for a long tunnel option through the Chilterns.

Richard Hebditch, the National Trust’s External Affairs Director responded to this announcement: “We’re disappointed that the Committee already seem to be ruling out a long tunnel under the Chilterns.

“Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty have that designation because of their importance to the nation. As the nation’s biggest infrastructure project for decades, the HS2 project should have the best mitigation for its route through the AONB. In our view, that means a fully bored tunnel. We hope that the Committee will think again on this when they hear from individual petitioners in the coming months.”

Wartime tunnels open at the White Cliffs of Dover

Second World War tunnels built on the orders of Winston Churchill underneath the White Cliffs of Dover, have opened to visitors for the first time following a two-year conservation project involving over 50 volunteers.

Fan Bay Deep Shelter, for blog post, credit Richard Crowhurst Corvidae (1)

Fan Bay Deep Shelter. Copyright National Trust, credit Richard Crowhurst Corvidae

Fan Bay Deep Shelter was built in the 1940s as part of Dover’s offensive and defensive gun batteries, which were designed to prevent German ships moving freely in the English Channel. The shelter was personally inspected by Winston Churchill in June 1941.

Carved out of the chalk cliffs, the shelter accommodated four officers and up to 185 men of other ranks during bombardments in five bomb-proof chambers and also had a hospital and secure store. It was decommissioned in the 1950s and filled in two decades later.

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