Transcript of the Prime Minister's Broadcast on the Environment and Business
Friday 27 October 2000
One of the usual criticisms of Governments and politicians is that they are all words and no action.
So it was a bit of a novelty this week to be under fire not for lack of action on the environment but for not talking about it more.
Im pleased my speech this week has helped push green issues up the political agenda and of course, that was the intention.
But, we have a record on the environment that we can be proud of and that sits starkly at odds with claims that this Government doesnt care about it.
On the issues big and small, national and global, weve made real progress.
Were leading, for example through John Prescott in the international drive to convince countries to take the threat of climate change seriously.
And to show we mean what we say, Britain is ahead of our international obligations for cutting greenhouse gases.
Nationally, too, for instance, weve set tough targets to improve air quality, limit building on greenfield sites and have expanded the green belt.
Locally, we want to give much needed extra protection for wildlife and wildlife sites and have designated two new national parks.
So there is a substantial amount of progress that has been made. But of course, we havent satisfied everyone and they are absolutely right that there is plenty more to do.
What I was trying to say in my speech this week was that the time is right now for a new coalition to help us achieve more and achieve it more quickly.
We need a partnership that encompasses government, business, the green movement and the public. Not always agreeing, but with common aims and a better understanding of what each group has to contribute to improving our environment.
Because we've known for years about the enormous threat of climate change, or the creeping loss of our countryside, or the costs of congestion.
But action to overcome these challenges was not helped in the past by a lack of trust and understanding between people.
On the one hand, for example, some people believed that business and industry, who produced some of the most obvious pollution, were simply the enemy.
On the other, some businesses believed they should seek to maximise profits come what may.
So, it was presented as a series of choices. A cleaner environment, or higher growth. Saving the planet, or saving jobs. Affordable housing or protection for our landscape.
Now of course there are points of conflict, but fundamentally these are false choices. Just as it was, for instance, a false choice to have to decide between a more prosperous country or a more just one, between cracking down on criminals, or tackling the underlying causes of crime, between taking a leading role in Europe or standing up for Britain.
In Government, we have shown these are false choices. Weve shown that the OR can be replaced by the AND.
So in relation to the environment, this choice is also false. Now, for example, the New Deal is about building social justice AND a healthy economy. Two hundred thousand extra young people in work delivers both.
Were dealing firmly with crime AND tackling the underlying causes of crime such as drug addiction.
On Europe, were taking a leading role AND winning for Britain such as the great deal we won on regional funding.
So what I was saying in respect to the environment this week is that that also offers a good way forward, the best way forward.
New, cleaner technologies can reduce pollution AND provide new jobs and export opportunities for British companies.
Cutting out waste helps the environment AND it makes companies more efficient and, therefore, better able to compete internationally.
More building on brownfield sites safeguards the countryside AND of course, it also helps revive our cities.
So, there will still be hard choices and we wont duck those.
But there are also situations which can be a WIN WIN for the environment and the public interest.
We must look for the many chances, therefore, to protect and enhance our environment while also gaining social and economic benefit.
Just as the environmental movement has much to offer in keeping our eye on the challenges we face, so businesses too can offer some of the innovations and technologies and solutions we need. And that's why a partnership is so important.
So, I'm not saying there still won't be cause for the Government to do much more, and to say that we should go far further. I'm not saying either that there won't be difficult and hard choices in respect of some of these key issues of the environment.
But, I'm also saying that if we can get the right partnership between the green movement, the Government, Business and the public, then we can make much more progress, make it more quickly, and benefit both our economy and the quality of life that we want to pass on to the next generation.
Thats why now is the time to forge the partnership which can deliver a richer and greener future.