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Nine ‘Dismal’ Government Failings on the Environment Exposed by Green Group

This General Election will be “pivotal for people and the planet” as ‘MP Watch’ election campaign targeting climate action ‘delayers’ launched

King Charles III and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the COP28 UN climate change summit. Photo: Chris Jackson/PA/Alamy

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The Government’s recent record on tackling nature loss and climate change has been “dismal”, Friends of the Earth has said, with the UK’s national and international climate targets “veering dangerously off track” under the Conservatives’ watch. 

“Amid an escalating climate and nature emergency and deep cost of living crisis, this General Election will be the most pivotal for people and the planet since the Second World War,”  a spokesperson for the leading green group said, as General Election campaigning enters its first full week. 

Campaigners have flagged ten “key failings” of the Conservative Government on environmental and climate issues. Climate issues have so far featured little in the General Election debate, though there are still 37 days to go. 

The criticisms come as the climate-focused MP Watch Network launched its election campaign, with a new video targeting Wycombe Conservative MP Steve Baker.

Jessica Townsend, campaign leader of the non-partisan group, said: “Our aim is to clean up parliament at the next election and to finally get rid of the pollution of climate misinformation…We need to make policies that follow the scientific evidence. Yet at this dangerous time, some in Westminster are playing politics on the issue. Frankly, it beggars belief.” 

“Our intention is to let constituents know if they have a climate denying MP, so they can vote accordingly,” she added. The group is focusing on well-known climate policy critics Conservatives Steve Baker, Jacob Rees Mogg, and Craig Mackinlay, as well as Esther McVey, Mark Jenkinson, Andrea Jenkins, Liz Truss and Suella Braverman. Baker organised the Net Zero push-back among Conservatives, while Labour MP Graham Stringer also counts among their ranks.

“In effect the whole Government has become a ‘delayist’ group,” Townsend of MP Watch said.

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UK Green Policy Failures

1. Flagship climate action plan ruled unlawful – twice

The Government’s climate action plan to ensure that legally-binding “carbon budgets” are met has been found to be unlawful twice, following legal challenges by Friends of the Earth and legal campaigners ClientEarth and Good Law Project. 

In May, the High Court ordered the outgoing Conservative secretary of state, Claire Coutinho, to draw up a revised climate action plan within 12 months – to make sure the UK stays within its maximum greenhouse emissions allowed by law, and its international pledge to cut emissions by at least 68% by 2030, both of which are currently off track.

The Climate Change Committee has warned that there are only credible plans in place to account for even a fifth of the emissions cuts needed to meet Britain’s sixth carbon budget, which starts in nine years. 

And analysis by Friends of the Earth, published last year, revealed that the UK’s international target to cut our emissions by more than two thirds by 2030 – a pledge repeatedly made by Rishi Sunak – is veering dangerously off track.

2. First new coal mine in decades approved

The Government gave the go-ahead to a huge new coal mine in Cumbria (December 2022), a decision branded “absolutely indefensible” by then chair of the Climate Change Committee, Lord Deben. A legal challenge by Friends of the Earth over the decision is due to take place in July.


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3. New oil and gas licences awarded

The Government has awarded dozens of new fossil fuel licences in the North Sea, and approved the Rosebank oil field, with the prime minister vowing to “max out” UK oil and gas. This is despite warnings from the world’s leading scientists that there can be no new fossil fuel development if global climate targets are to be met. 

However, the Government’s flagship legislation to introduce annual rounds of new licenses for fossil fuel giants in the North Sea fell due to the General Election being called. 

4. Cheap clean energy blocked

The Government has refused to lift unnecessary planning restrictions on onshore wind, despite it being one of the cheapest sources of electricity, essential for meeting our climate targets and highly popular with the public.

5. Ban on new petrol and diesel cars delayed

As part of a speech last September, Sunak announced a series of rollbacks on climate commitments, including delaying a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by five years. 

6. Sewage filled rivers and seas

Sewage was pumped directly into England’s seas for 440,446 hours last year, according to FoE research. Over a quarter of these spills occurred within 3km of bathing sites. 2023 was the worst year on record for sewage spills, according to Government data. 

7. Plans to require landlords to insulate private-rented sector homes scrapped

The Government had promised to introduce regulations to require landlords to bring homes up to a decent energy efficiency standard by 2028. But in a September 2023 announcement Rishi Sunak scrapped the plans, despite fuel poverty levels being high among renters and the health impacts of damp, mouldy homes being more widely recognised.

8. Presided over massive cuts in bus services

Analysis by Leeds University has found that bus services in England outside of London have seen a staggering decline since the Conservatives came to power, with provision plummeting across England (except London) and by more than 60% in 80 local authority areas.

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9. ​Nature in poor shape

The Office for Environmental Protection produced an annual progress report which concluded earlier this year that only 3 out of 10 indicators for “thriving plants and wildlife” have seen progress. 

The watchdog also gave a damning assessment of the Government’s progress towards its 2027 target to restore England’s rivers, lakes and seas this month. In a worst-case scenario, it predicted that just 21% of England’s water courses would be in a good ecological state by the deadline – far below its target of 77%.

FoE is calling on all parties to commit to “urgently ramping up their green ambition to meet crucial climate commitments” and ensure everyone benefits from the transition to a zero-carbon economy.

The group’s general election coordinator, Jamie Peters, said: “Instead of seizing the huge opportunities that developing a green economy will bring, the Government has continued to champion fossil fuels, failed to properly invest in clean energy and insulation, allowed our rivers to be swamped by sewage and attempted to turn climate change into yet another culture war issue.

“Despite everything going on in the world, voters across the political spectrum want strong green policies and action to tackle the climate and nature crisis.

“Every party should commit to developing the green economy and putting the health of the planet at the heart of their manifestos.”

Byline Times is relaunching our VoteWatch project to monitor disinformation, dodgy campaigning and dark money during the General Election. Get in touch if you have a tip off or any insights:

If you have a political story or tip-off, email

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