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Govt 'Failing On Key Environmental Pledges'

(c) Sky News 2012

The Government is failing on its key environmental targets, including action on flooding, according to a report by leading charities.

Ministers are failing to improve flood defences and prevent unnecessary building in areas at high risk of flooding, it found.

The Nature Check report comes amid a spate of bad weather across the country, with a week of torrential rain resulting in widespread flooding in the South West, the Midlands, Wales and Northern England.

Experts warned not enough money is being spent on flood defences and called for a greater alignment between flood management and other policies, such as protecting nature.

They also called for a halt to building on flood plains, unless vital and approved by the Environment Agency.

The traffic light assessment by Wildlife and Countryside Link, which includes 38 groups, also gave the Government a "red" for failing to introduce a carefully managed and science-led badger control policy to tackle TB in cattle and to bring in a ban on wild animals in circuses.

The Government was judged to have failed on its pledge to ensure marine conservation measures were brought in.

The report found the Government was only fully delivering on two international-focused commitments: to oppose the resumption of commercial whaling and pressing for a ban on ivory sales.

The remaining pledges scored an amber grade, including action to protect wildlife and promote green spaces, to reform the water industry to improve competition and conservation and maintain the green belt.

Progress on reviewing the direction of forestry and woodland policy, creating a presumption in favour of sustainable development in planning and reforming the planning system to give more control to communities were commended.

But environmental and wildlife groups warned that without renewed political will and action, the Government was in danger of slipping backwards again.

Only 17% of people polled for the organisations said they thought the coalition was the "greenest government ever", as pledged by Prime Minister David Cameron when he came to power in 2010.

Dr Elaine King, director of Link, said: "The Government lags behind public opinion on the environment, as the attempt to sell off our forests demonstrated. It needs to catch up.

"A healthy environment - and the public benefits it brings - is a critical part of everyone's quality of life, not an optional add-on.

"The Government's continued use of rhetoric that promotes growth over the environment is a worrying sign that the fragile progress made so far may not last.

"We want to see the Government recognise the value of nature and ensure that all departments recognise that the natural environment underpins sustainable growth."

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