With 2010 drawing to a close, UK Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman announced triumphantly:
“Over 95 per cent of England’s finest wildlife and geological sites, covering more than one million hectares of countryside, are now in favourable or recovering condition.”
Spelman’s overly rosy interpretation of the current state of Britain’s environment is at odds with an independent report from Professor Sir John Lawton and a team of leading conservationists who are much less enthusiastic about Britain’s environmental record. Measured according to the scale SSSI (Sites of Special Scientific Interest), Sir Lawton’s team found that just 30% of these sites were in favourable condition, with the rest in a mode of “unfavourable recovering.”
Indeed, most at-risk wildlife species have shown no improvement between 1999 and 2008, and 125 of 289 species are in decline. Birds, in particular, are struggling.
In another example of misleading spin, just 15 months ago the UK Environment Agency boasted that the quality of rivers in England and Wales was the best it has been for more than a century. Yet according to European legal standards, nearly 75% of all rivers in England and Wales do not meet the highest European environmental standards. In fact, a mere 26% of rivers are in “good” quality, and only five rivers out of nearly 6,000 achieve the highest standards.
Vidal concludes that Britain’s greenwashing is far out of step with its actual environmental record:
For those keeping score, the Guardian is tracking Prime Minister David Cameron’s commitment to be the “greenest government ever” with its green-o-meter.