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Lib Dems come top in 'green' audit - but all three parties told to do more

By Andrew Grice

The Liberal Democrats have been voted the greenest of the three main political parties in an audit by Britain's environmental groups published today.

But the nine groups have warned that Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats all have work to do before they can claim to match their rhetoric on the environment with hard policies.

How Green Are Our Parties? The Green StandardReport concludes that none of the parties is yet committed to the policies and action on the scale required to meet the range and urgency of the environmental threats facing the world.

The Liberal Democrats, regarded as the party with the most long-standing commitment to the environment, come out on top despite efforts by the two biggest parties to catch up.

But today's report is bad news for David Cameron, who has made the environment a symbol of his attempt to change the image of the Conservative Party. Despite his efforts, the Tories are rated behind the two other parties.

It is the first time that the organisations, who share a total of five million supporters, have carried out such a detailed study of the parties' green credentials. The groups who took part were Camaron, Friends of the Earth, Green Alliance, Greenpeace, the National Trust, the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts, the Woodland Trust and WWF-UK.

The groups rated the three parties' performance in key areas using a "traffic light" system. A green verdict means they are pleased with the party's policies and direction of travel; an amber rating means they see positive elements but without enough clarity on the ambition or commitment to deliver, and a red light means they are concerned by the party's approach and its lack of positive commitments.

The Tories got no green lights, with the study concluding there was a "stark" gap between the party's aspirations and its limited policy commitments.

Labour achieved one green light for displaying international leadership on combating climate change but was marked down for failing on its renewable energy and carbon emissions targets and not introducing a promised Bill to protect the marine environment.

The Liberal Democrats, who will trumpet their environmental policies when they open the party political conference season next week, were awarded three green lights for their stances on domestic action on global warming, green living and environmental taxes.

Stephen Hale, director of Green Alliance, said on behalf of the nine groups: "It is very disappointing that none of the three main parties is yet providing the leadership and action we need. The environmental ambitions of the parties are very welcome but all three must close the gap between rhetoric and delivery in the run-up to the next general election."

He said the Liberal Democrats deserved praise for their approach to climate change but, like the other parties, they had neglected the countryside and wildlife agenda. "The challenge for David Camaron is particularly acute, given diverging views in his own party."

Mr Hale added: "Despite demands from business and the voting public, the environmental beauty contest between the parties has, to date, been characterised by too much spin – and too little substance. The Green Standard tests can be met but our political leaders must show greater courage and commitment."

The Tories' quality-of- life policy group, which publishes its final report tomorrow, will recommend council tax rebates for people who recycle their waste. Council tax bills would show people how much they pay to have their rubbish collected and waste recycled.

It also proposes measures to curb waste caused by excessive packaging. The group says this could mean consumers paying a 20p deposit for a drinks bottle which would be refunded when they returned it to a reverse-vending machine. People would bring home less food packaging from supermarkets because manufacturers would be driven to reduce unnecessary packaging by "take back" schemes. Remaining packaging would be recyclable or compostable.

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