- 18 апреля 2011, 00:14
All of Britain's 278 environment laws under review, including National Park, Clean Air and Climate Change Acts
Environmental campaigners have condemned the coalition's inclusion of all of Britain's 278 environmental laws in a list of "red tape" regulations considered by the public for the axe.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act, National Park Act, Clean Air Act and the Climate Change Act are among the packages of environmental safeguards included in the "red tape challenge" – a crowdsourcing exercise launched by the government to establish which regulations restrict business in the UK.
All of the UK's more than 21,000 pieces of regulation are included on the government's website for an evaluation. Users are told only the issues of tax and national security are exempted. Participants are assured the "onus" will be on ministers to make the case for keeping a regulation recommended for cutting.
The inclusion of environmental legislation has alarmed green groups. John Sauven, director of Greenpeace, said: "We don't yet know if this is cock-up or conspiracy. If it's a cock-up, David Cameron needs to come out and say the Climate Change Act, central to the push for a clean technology revolution, is safe from the axe. But if ministers are serious about scrapping it and other vital environmental regulations then we'll be looking at something akin to the worst excesses of the Bush-Cheney White House. When did clean air and green jobs become a burden?"
Environmental campaigners also expressed alarm that the authors of the website suggested the government no longer thought issues of climate change to be of national security. In 2009, William Hague, then shadow foreign secretary, said climate change was "not simply an environmental and developmental concern but an urgent foreign and national security concern".
A source from the business department said the exercise was not simply an audit of which regulations should be cut. Rather, it was an attempt to find out the public sentiment and ideas on all red tape, for better or worse. Their responsibility was to business as much as to those concerned about the environment, the source added.
David Babbs of the campaigning group 38 Degrees, which played a central role in forcing the government's U-turn on the sale of Britain's forests, said his members would take exception to climate change amelioration or wildlife protection measures being called "red tape".
He urged the government to demonstrate how the legislation would be guarded.
"38 Degrees members supported David Cameron's promise to make this the greenest government ever, and we want him to keep that promise," Babbs said. "Laws like the Countryside and Wildlife Act and the Climate Change Act aren't red tape, they help keep Britain green and pleasant and protect our planet for future generations."
The repeal of the Wildlife and Countryside Act – which governs the protection of wild birds, animals and plants – would see national parks, marine reserves and sites of special scientific interest unprotected. It protects birds, their nests and eggs by law and so makes it an offence to intentionally kill, injure or capture a wild bird.
The Climate Change Act – feted as the first of its kind worldwide – makes it the duty of the secretary of state to ensure net UK carbon emissions for all six Kyoto greenhouse gases are at least 80% lower in 2050 than the 1990 baseline.
Campaigners are concerned the move by the government to put environmental safeguards up for grabs will render them vulnerable to a growing body of climate change sceptics. On 19 March, a meeting in Cambridge of scientists and climate change sceptics launched the "repeal the climate change act" group – a movement that is talking of launching a climate change truth commission.
Once the red tape initiative winds up, ministers will have three months to work out which regulations they want to keep and why.
A business department spokesman said: "It wouldn't look right for [environmental regulations] not to be on there. We are committed to meeting our climate change obligations, but at the same time we did not want to keep certain things off the website because we knew people would want to comment on them.
"We've got to look at things from both sides. Yes, there's the environmental side, but businesses have to deal with these regulations on a daily basis and it takes a lot to grow a business."