Britain unveils multibillion-dollar environment plan Cleanup targets air, water, image

September 26, 1990|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,London Bureau of The Sun

LONDON -- The "Dirty Man of Europe," as Britain is frequently called, unveiled a multibillion-dollar environmental cleanup program yesterday.

The government's 300-page plan outlined 350 measures to tackle air, land, sea, and noise pollution.

Environmental Secretary Chris Patten said it dealt with the environment "from the street corner to the stratosphere," and struck a balance between a healthy economy and a healthy environment.

Reaction from opposition politicians was negative and from environmentalists.

The new program includes:

* A $50 billion water cleanup effort over the next 10 years.

* A $10 billion program to reduce acid rain caused by power station emissions.

* A 10-fold increase in power generation from renewable sources.

* An Emphasis on energy efficiency, particularly in houses and in autos, which will be subjected for the first time to U.S.-style annual emission checks.

* The phasing out of the use of ozone-depleting gases by the year 2000.

* Aid for protection of the countryside, which will include the conservation of historic cathedrals.

* The appointment of an environmental minister in every government department.

* Regular statistical reports on Britain's environment.

It was the first comprehensive environmental statement from the government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, which has been in power for 11 years and has frequently been criticized for its lack of environmental emphasis.

It was meant to reflect Mrs. Thatcher's recent embracing of the environment as a national and international problem, a shift in policy priorities that has been greeted by skepticism in the "green" lobby.

The opposition Labor Party's environmental spokesman, Bryan Gould dismissed the document as "long on waffle and short on policy." Describing it as "disappointing in the extreme," he said it was "thin on any measures that will be taken by the government. Many of the things that should have been dealt with if we were to escape that dreadful label, 'The Dirty Man of Europe,' have not been done."

Sarah Parkin of the Green Party said surveys indicated that 70 percent of British voters favor strong government action on the environment.

"Given that we elect a government to govern, and given that we give them a big purse with which to govern, and given there is so much to do so quickly, this paper offers dismally little," she said.

Other reaction was mixed.

The Association for the Conservation of Energy welcomed the emphasis on energy efficiency but warned that the plan fell short of the measures needed to meet current targets for reduced emission of gases linked to the "greenhouse effect.

The National Energy Foundation also welcomed new building regulations to encourage energy conservation but said its own voluntary scheme was proceeding faster than the proposed government action.

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