Friday, 8 May 2015

Blue meets Green – What does Conservative party’s win mean for UK's environment?

The results of the general election are in. David Cameron will continue to lead the country for the next 5 years. But how does the UK’s environmental issues fare in the 2015 election manifesto of the Conservative party? Of the several promises listed in it, these grabbed my attention.

Creation of Blue belts for protecting marine environments in the UK and UK ‘s 14 overseas territories: Following on from the work in the previous term, the manifesto promises to complete the network of Marine Conservation Zones to create a UK Blue Belt of protected sites. Last year the coalition government  instituted a  Marine Protected Area around the Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific –the world’s largest contiguous ocean reserve  with 830,000 square kilometers (3.5 times the landmass of UK).  The manifesto promises to extend this programme around the UK’s 14 Overseas Territories, subject to local approval. 

 Planting 11 million trees: This promise is significant especially because public forests and woodland where supposedly the trees would  be planted are to be kept in trust for the nation.

Building new environmentally sensitive infrastructures: The conservative manifesto promises to build roads and railways with reduced environmental impact. It promises to cut light pollution from new roads, build better noise barriers, include more tunnelling, and help restore habitats lost during construction. A specific case mentioned is that of the construction of High Speed 2 - the planned railways connecting London Euston with the Midlands through to the North. The manifesto promises to ‘replenish locally any biodiversity lost in the construction’. How they are going to achieve this is not mentioned in the manifesto.  Importantly ‘biodiversity’ cannot be easily replenished. Yes trees can be planted, some animals introduced,  however ‘ biodiversity’   refers to the variety of living organisms in different ecosystems starting with microbes and is complex. Thus, ‘replenishing biodiversity’ is not easily achievable, at least not  in totality, though conservation is possible and must be pursued .Therefore the 25 years plan that the Conservatives will develop to restore UK’s biodiversity is commendable.

Pocket Parks in urban areas: The manifesto promises to launch a programme of ‘pocket parks’  - small green spaces that town and city dwellers can enjoy .This is an excellent idea. Here in Ecoratorio, we have repeatedly highlighted the need for more green spaces in the cities.

One omission in the manifesto is the lack of any mention of how they plan to tackle pesticide overuse in the crops, which has been blamed for declining bee numbers. This is a lapse as the manifesto says that they ‘will help our bees to thrive’.

In the days ahead, we will see whether the new government remains committed to its promises.But one fact is clear that  a green Britain will assuredly contribute to a ‘greater Britain’.

Reference: Conservative Party Manifesto 2015

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