The next election is the most important in a generation. A choice not just between parties but between two competing visions of how our country can succeed. A Tory plan that says we can succeed with just a few at the top doing well, where your ability to pay dictates access to almost everything in society, including our natural environment. Or Labour's plan for Britain's future - where everyone has access to clean air, clean water and protection from flood risk- regardless of wealth.
Under this Tory-led Government our environment has seen non-stop degradation and decline. David Cameron told us that he would lead the 'greenest Government ever' but like so much else with this Government all we have are broken promises. The Environmental Audit Committee published an environmental scorecard at the end of last year, using a traffic light system to rate the Government's performance in each area. For its record on air pollution, biodiversity, and flooding and coastal protection, the Government received a red rating, meaning that these areas had 'deteriorated'. In fact, in none of the ten areas assessed did the Government receive a green rating. If things are going to change, we need a Labour Government.
By contrast Labour Party has a proud record on the natural environment. It was a Labour Government in 1949 - tough times with public spending constraints far greater than we're seeing now - that took the action to create our national parks. It was a Labour Government that brought forward the landmark Countryside and Rights of Way Act in 2000 which opened up new land for public access. We did this because our Labour values tell us that everyone should have access to nature whoever they are and wherever they live.
Only Labour recognises the need for extending public access to nature and the benefits of improved health and wellbeing it provides. After all it was this Tory-led Government that tried to sell-off our public forests until they were stopped by half a million people signing a petition against their plans. So the next Labour Government will protect our public forests, keeping them in public ownership. In addition Labour will secure ready access to trees and woodlands by planting them closer to the places where people live.
Only a Labour understands that economic success cannot be built by eroding our natural environment any more than by eroding wages or living standards. It is unacceptable that we still have a deep inequality of access to nature, where the most deprived communities are ten times less likely to live in the greenest areas. So the next Labour Government will make extending access to nature a priority and we will work with local communities and stakeholders to make this happen. We will secure the recovery of nature for everyone, in the city and the countryside.