THIS government's pledge to be the "greenest ever" may just about have materialised, but less convincingly than hoped at the outset – thanks partly to continuing economic problems.
Undaunted, my colleagues are thinking about what must be achieved in the next five years, publishing a 'Green Manifesto' for the economy, households, communities, institutional reform and international cooperation.
The Green Alliance welcomed it, saying other parties should envy the clarity of the proposals; while the RSPB says the ideas would help fix our natural deficit and help make people happier and healthier.
We must do more to make our economy genuinely sustainable: enhancing living standards for generations to come; balanced between business sectors; benefiting all parts of the country, and creating jobs for young people.
Industries of the future need investment now, so the Green Investment Bank needs its assets and remit widening to help British businesses compete globally in an increasingly resource- and climate-constrained world.
Green industries have grown through the recession to almost 10% of our economy, employing almost a million people and expected roughly to halve our trade deficit. Britain is becoming a world leader in marine renewables, low-carbon transport and green finance.
Fruits of economic recovery need sharing fairly. An active state must use regulation, taxation and intervention to drive change and build a thriving society, where people enjoy life and realise their aims in a flourishing natural environment and a sustainable built environment. We need to build 1.5 million new homes to top environmental standards; we should also aim to 'retrofit' a million homes every year for energy efficiency and flood and climate resilience; and aim for more than half of households generating their own renewable energy.
By 2050 all electricity demand must be met by sustainable energy, with 50% as a target for 2030 – with legally binding targets to decarbonise the electricity sector.
What matters is quality of life and critical to that aim is the protection and enhancement of the natural environment, of the countryside, of wildlife and of city parks and gardens and green spaces of every kind.
This includes statutory targets for clean air, fresh water and biodiversity, better protection from extreme weather and flooding, with long-term planning for droughts and floods, and for likely impacts of a 3–4 degree global temperature rise.
These big ambitions need changes in how we are governed: devolving responsibility to communities and supporting community banks and electricity generation.
Above all we must make long-term thinking the norm, with 'natural capital' accounting, a new Office of Environmental Responsibility and mechanisms to make companies fully aware of the environmental and social implications of their decision.
To achieve all this means working with other countries and global institutions towards a new climate treaty, halting deforestation and making both devel¬opment aid and trade agreements support rather than undermine the environment.