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Low carbon businesses hail "greenest election"

The 2010 election campaign has left low carbon businesses unsure whether to celebrate the "greenest election" on record or commiserate at the way environmental issues were sidelined by economic concerns.

Craig Bennett, co-director of the Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change hailed the 2010 election campaign as marking significant progress on the 2005 campaign when environmental issues were notable by their absence.

"It would be churlish not to accept that green issues have had a higher billing than ever before," he said. "All the three main leaders referred to green issues and the related business issues and all of the three main parties' manifestos contained some pretty substantial commitments. Of course, they need to go further, but they have shown real progress."

His comments were echoed by Peter Young, chairman of the Aldersgate Group of green businesses, who agreed the campaign showed a marked improvement on 2005.

"In terms of the manifestos there was a lot more green content from all three main parties and the fact they each did green mini-manifestos shows that they understand there is an appetite for this issue," he said. "But Labour and the Conservatives failed to fully integrate low carbon policies into their manifesto and the media were guilty of under reporting green policies."

Young added that as with the three main parties approach to dealing with the deficit a degree of consensus had allowed the mainstream media to gloss over the finer detail of low carbon policies. "If the need for public sector cuts has been the elephant in the room, the need for carbon cuts has been the little elephant in the room," he said.

Jeff Chapman, chairman of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, said that the media's sidelining of environmental issues was understandable given the scale of the consensus between the three main parties. "The only real difference between the three main parties is the Lib Dems opposition to nuclear, which could become a big issue in a hung parliament," he said. "Apart from that there is a lot of broad agreement with only a few differences in the detail."

According to a number of experts, that consensus could lead to rapid progress on a number of environmental policies even if today's election fails to deliver a conclusive winner.

Martyn Williams of Friends of the Earth predicted that whoever forms the next government they will be tempted to make their environmental manifesto commitments a central part of their agenda over the next few months.

"If we have a very tight parliamentary situation then the ruling party is likely to try and deliver progress in areas that are popular and where there is political consensus," he said. "Whoever wins, of they come up with a strong green bill they are likely to get the NGOs onside and make it very difficult for the opposition to block it, even if they are a minority government."

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