The environment

May 1, 1998

Tony Blair's government is one year old today. What challenges lie ahead, what has it achieved so far and, if Labour celebrates ten years in power, how will Britain look in 2007? The experts give their verdicts.

New Labour has not been as sure-footed on the environment as some expected. This may be because it was not important to them in opposition, so perhaps they are still feeling their way. Harsher critics say that it is still not important to them now they are in government.

That seems unfair. There is a lot going on, even if it has not started to deliver the goods. A few positive signs are the integration of the departments of the environment and transport; the role played by Labour ministers in the run-up to the Kyoto conference on climate change; the establishment of an environmental audit committee in the Commons; the resuscitation of the Tories' idea of a designated "green" minister in each department; and the creation of the Food Standards Agency.

Much now rides on three processes: the new integrated transport strategy, due this month, which must cut through ten years of blubber about the awfulness of our transport problems and actually do something; a revised sustainable development strategy, due this autumn; and the rapid re-emergence of a strategy on green taxes rather than the inadequate measures squeezed out of a reluctant chancellor in his first two budgets.

Hard choices loom.

Jonathon Porritt is programme director, Forum for the Future.

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