Labour failing to hit most green targets claims think tank

The Government is set to miss more than half the targets it has set on environmental issues since 1997, research has claimed.

A study by centre-right think tank Policy Exchange said 60 per cent of green aims laid out by Labour have been missed, are unlikely to be achieved or are so vaguely worded as to make analysis of whether they've been met impossible.

Targets set by the Government since it came to power on issues ranging from biodiversity to climate change have been or will be missed, the research claimed.

The think-tank examined 132 White Papers, speeches and publications and found 138 high-level targets on the environment, set by central Government and to be delivered by Westminster.

Of those, Policy Exchange said 38 per cent had failed or were unlikely to be met, 22 per cent could not be examined and 40 per cent had been or were likely to be met. The areas where most success had been seen was in waste targets - such as recycling 35 per cent of household waste by 2010 and 20 per cent of aggregates by 2006/07 - where 67 per cent of aims have been or were likely to be met.

But 25 out of 66 objectives on climate change and energy, for example providing 5 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2003, had failed, or were unlikely to be met. And on biodiversity, the research said the Government had set more than 436 "sub-targets", of which 88 per cent had been missed.

The Policy Exchange accused Labour of setting targets without finances or incentives to ensure they are met, and of using targets in lieu of taking action.

The think tank's environmental unit head Tara Singh also claimed "creative accounting" was being used to fudge the issue of failure or "spinning" of goals, for example on cutting climate change gas emissions.

In other cases targets were so long-term or vague as to be meaningless, or failed because there was no one Government department with clear responsibility for implementation.

The study said targets also failed because they were set far in advance but with no interim steps to monitor progress and were chopped and changed - undermining business confidence in helping meet them, the report said.

In contrast, where targets had been successfully met, for example in waste reduction, the aims had been set well in advance, were an on escalating scale and were underpinned by clear and powerful policy commitments such as the Landfill Tax Escalator.

Singh said: "There are too many, too complex targets without specific and attainable goals, set far in advance but measured continually. There also needs to be a more open and transparent approach to reporting.

"Our environment does not benefit just because a target is set, only when it is ambitious and is subsequently achieved."

Shadow environment secretary Peter Ainsworth accused the Government of "failing lamentably to live up to its own green spin" and said the report showed abject under-performance on environmental targets.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that despite the political rhetoric there is no political will to make our country a greener and safer place to live."

Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Steve Webb said the report showed the Government had failed to deliver on its big promises on the environment.

"It is astonishing that even when the Government sets its own green targets, it consistently misses them. It is vital that ministers stick to the targets in the Climate Change Bill to prevent looming climate chaos," he said.

But the Government insisted it had set clear targets for environmental goals and was making good progress against them.

Image: Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Steve Webb

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