Mary Creagh on UK environmental policies
A transcript of the interview
Clifford Armion: Last year we had Peter Ainsworth here, a former Shadow Secretary of State for environment. He said that one of the main challenges for the new Coalition government would be to find and promote new, cleaner sources of energy. Are you satisfied with the energy policies of this new government?
Mary Creagh: I'm not satisfied with any of the policies of the new government as you would perhaps expect me to say. We (Labour) left a framework in place for large scale renewables, community scale renewables and small scale renewables. The small scale renewables is basically the solar panels and the government has embarked on a consultation to change the tariffs that people receive if they invest in solar panels to get green electricity into their house and then feed it back into the national grid. Before the end of the consultation they announced it would go down from 40p to 23p. Lots of people had planned, invested, undertaken work. They had solar panels on the ships from China which takes twelve weeks and were ready to invest. All those people have been left absolutely high and dry by the government changing these tariffs in the middle of a consultation period. Not only do we think it's wrong to change the tariffs so quickly, we think the businesses need certainty to invest in green growth and jobs, and the one thing this government is not doing is giving anybody any certainty about the regulatory environment in which they're operating. That's very bad for business. We've seen our share of green investment globally drop. We were fifth and we've gone to 17th in one year. That's because people are worried about the intentions of the new government.
C.A.: Do you think it's reasonable to maintain an investment in clean energies in a period of economic uncertainty?
M.C.: You have to because if you have an economic crisis today, we also know that we have a climate change crisis which in terms of reducing our GNP is many times more worrying and potentially destructive globally than this economic crisis. So the government has to maintain investment. By all means change the tariffs but do it in a way that is measured and allows business the confidence to invest, and that is not what they have done.
C.A.: Earlier this year you opposed a plan by the Coalition government to sell a huge part of the national forest land. I think there is still some concern about the relaxing of building regulations in national parks. What is your position on this matter?
M.C.: The government had a plan to sell off England's forest to raise a hundred million pounds. We as a party, but also the country as a whole, were completely against this because when you have a national asset, when you've sold it, it's gone forever. We thought privatisation was a bad idea. It's a poor way of raising revenue, it's a disastrous policy when carbon is going to have a price that can only increase in the green economy as we go on. The forests are our biggest carbon sink so it didn't make sense in the long term to get rid of them. Also the private sector has shown itself to be a very poor manager of forests. Rich people buy forests because they want to say "I've got a forest", and also because the land value goes up about 6% or 8% a year which is certainly a lot better than any bank interest at the moment. But they're very poor at planting trees, looking after the trees, maintaining access etc... So the government went through this consultation period. 700 000 people signed a petition against the sell-off and eventually we forced them into a government U-turn. There is still a panel that is going to report in June next year, but I'm hoping that the big row that we had this year is going to make sure that this is not going to happen again.
C.A.: What about those concerns about building in national parks?
MC.: There's a whole raft of planning policies which is being changed. The government wants local authorities to have a duty to give permission to build houses, and it's forcing them to plan work of housing in their local areas for 15 years. At the moment the planning framework for the National Parks is about 57 pages long. The government wants to give them a duty to promote sustainable development and that could mean that they'll have to balance the building of homes or businesses alongside their duty to protect the natural environment and the landscape. At the moment they just have to protect the landscape. That can force them into very difficult decisions. We've already had one planning application approved under the current rules for 400 homes right in the middle of one of our national parks in an area of outstanding natural beauty with no roads, no schools, no hospitals for at least three miles. There's been a big outcry locally about that because it's the site of an old mental hospital but as well as building on the hospital they're going to be building on all the woodland around it, there will be rows of buildings and streets around it, almost like a new village right in the middle of a national park. We're very concerned that it won't be homes for local people because there, the government has also reduced the budget of local councils to build affordable housing for local people. So the developers will come in for people that will only come for the weekend. That just perpetuates the cycle of homelessness in the countryside and of rich people from London coming down at the weekend so that we end up with ghost villages with nobody living in them during the week.
Pour citer cette ressource :
Mary Creagh, Clifford Armion, "Mary Creagh on UK environmental policies", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), janvier 2012. Consulté le 30/11/2023. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/civilisation/les-dossiers-transversaux/developpement-durable/mary-creagh-on-uk-environmental-policies