THE BLOG

The 'Greenest Government Ever' Lie

19/09/2014 08:00 BST | Updated 18/11/2014 10:59 GMT

The prime minister thinks he has got away with the "greenest government ever" lie. Nobody else does. Our air is more polluted, more homes are at significant risk of flooding and more species are in decline because of this government's failure.

Years of government inaction on air pollution has got people thinking that the state cannot even protect basic public goods like clean air. In the last year 29,000 people have died and our own Supreme Court has even judged the government's lack of action to be unlawful. What on earth is politics for if it can't even give us clean air?

Air pollution in the UK is set to remain at illegal and unsafe levels for another twenty years. We know this because campaigning lawyers at Client Earth brought a case against this complacent government all the way to the European Court of Justice and pointed out that the government's own website said so.

Air pollution must be taken out of the "Too Difficult Box" and the next Labour government has now committed to doing just that. Just as we have identified the need to freeze energy bills, build affordable homes and reduce flood risk, so too we will create a new National Framework for Low Emission Zones to tackle air quality.

This will give Local Authorities the power to reduce the air pollution caused by road traffic. Many Local Authorities have already tried to implement low emissions zones but got discouraged and gave up because there was no support from national government. Under a Labour government, there will be.

Just as important to understand, if we want a fair and equal society: air pollution is a key driver of inequalities - it is wickedly effective at targeting the poor. The less money you have the more likely you are to live close to polluted roads. Most of us cannot choose to move further away from a main road or add another 40 minutes to our commute so that we can live in a quiet, clean, leafy street. Most of us can't move our kids to another school because their playground backs on to a major road.

Like air pollution, flood risk is a threat that government should be protecting us against. Climate change is a threat to the conditions in which our economy can function at all. Anyone with a business on the Somerset Levels found that out this winter. The cost of extreme floods - which are becoming more frequent and severe - is not just the damage to property, it is the months, sometimes years lost as businesses, homes and communities are rebuilt.

That's why the next Labour government will establish an independent National Infrastructure Commission to identify the UK's long-term infrastructure needs, including flood defences, and hold government to account for meeting them. We will also rewrite the government's approach to preparing the UK for climate change.

The government has abandoned the foundations for the recovery of our environment. The next Labour government will rebuild them. After all "what is politics for if it can't even give us things like clean air?"