“It doesn’t matter who you vote for, the government always gets in.” That famous quote may seem unduly defeatist, but when it comes to the environment there is more than a ring of truth about it. In the run-up to the general election, environmental issues have barely figured in TV debates and interviews with party leaders and candidates, and are clearly not considered a major battleground for votes. With the notable exception of the Greens, most parties have said little on the subject, and you could be forgiven for thinking that by and large politicians don’t devote much time to thinking about the environment or how to conserve biodiversity.
This is not just an issue in the UK, but a global problem, too. In 2010 the world’s governments undertook to protect 17 per cent of land and 10 per cent of sea by 2020, but a new study has found progress well behind target, with one third of all key sites still lacking any form of protection. It seems that long-term preservation of the planet is not a priority for short-term governments and the prospect of re-election. Tax cuts win votes, protected areas don’t.
Perhaps that’s to be expected. In the UK, big issues like austerity and the NHS are bound to dominate the debate, and parties should be assessed on their policies on a range of issues, not just one. But the environment generally, and birds specifically, matter hugely to people like us, and if we don’t factor them into the voting process, who will? To try and redress this imbalance in coverage and help you make an informed voting decision on 2 May, we’ve put together a special election guidein the latest issue of Birdwatch to outline the views and policies of all parties on conservation and the environment. It makes interesting and sometimes surprising reading – use it to help you make the right decision on election day.