Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent
Thursday 1 June 2017 07.00 BST
Debate on environmental issues has been stifled in the run-up the general election leaving voters in the dark , opposition parties have claimed, as a result of the Lobbying Act and government determination to avoid criticism over problems such as air pollution.
Green groups have privately raised concern, along with other charities, over the impact of the law, and now have the support of all major parties apart from the Conservatives.
Key environmental concerns, from climate change to green spaces, waste and renewable energy, have received little attention in a campaign dominated by immigration, Brexit, the economy and national security.
However, the next parliament is expected to face a series of tough choices on green policies that will shape the UK’s natural environment and role in combating global problems for decades to come. These include measures on air pollution, protecting habitats and wildlife, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, subsidising farmers, and building new homes.
Barry Gardiner, Labour’s shadow trade secretary, slammed green groups for failing to take on the Conservative government. “Some very august organisations should be ashamed of the way they ducked out of the referendum debate because of fear of the Lobbying Act,” he told the Greener UK Hustings, organised by a group of 13 environmental organisations including the Green Alliance, RSPB and the Woodland Trust, on Tuesday night.
Gardiner accused unnamed green groups of failing to “stand up for the environment”, and so contributing to the decision to withdraw from the EU, which he said would be disastrous for environmental protections.
He called for the urgent repeal of the act, which requires civil society organisations and business lobbyists to register and restricts their activities in the run-up to polling day. “It makes it impossible for people [in civil society groups] to tell the truth, but it does not stop Shell [and other big companies] – it stops environmental NGOs from doing what they were set up to do,” he said.
environment in the state we inherited it, and we are making good progress, and we want to keep making progress. This does not need to be a partisan issue – we can all work together.”
The future of the Paris agreement on climate change, of which the UK has been a strong supporter, has also been called into question as US president Donald Trump on Wednesday promised an imminent decision on withdrawing from it. Gardiner challenged Theresa May to tackle Trump on the issue, noting that the prime minister was the only G7 leader to have failed publicly to urge the White House to support the Paris pact.