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UK Government urged to support low-carbon project before EU deadline is missed
The Living Rainforest centre in West Berkshire has written to environment minister Phil Woolas asking for clarification of the Government’s position regarding support for a leading European low-carbon food project based at the eco-centre, before a crucial EU deadline is missed at the end of the summer. If Government financial support of £830,000 is not forthcoming, the charity will be forced to hand back nearly €1.2 million of funds granted by Brussels.
When the EU announced its decision to fund the ‘Integrated Greenhouse’ project in 2005, then environment minister Elliot Morley proudly announced the EU’s funding support to the UK media. Both Defra and the DTI (now BERR) were involved in making the bid. But it is unclear whether the UK Government is still behind the project in 2008.
The charity wrote to Gordon Brown in July, asking for the Government’s backing to save the project and help ensure that the EU funds remain in the UK. Environment minister Phil Woolas wrote back on behalf of the Government, but his response was unclear on the crucial issue of financial support. Now the charity does not know whether the Government is behind the project or not.
Green MEP Caroline Lucas is calling for the Government to support the project. “It is crucial that the UK retains EU funding for innovative projects such as this, which seek to provide practical solutions for making reductions in our carbon emissions. These reductions are urgently needed if we are to stave off the worst effects of climate change, and now is not the time to be depriving such research projects of financial support.”
The ‘Integrated Greenhouse’ project (www.livingrainforest.org/ig) is recognised internationally as having merit both as a low-carbon glasshouse building project, and as a climate-friendly way to grow crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and lettuce, without relying on fossil fuels or air-freighted imports. As the first landmark project in Europe to demonstrate such low carbon horticulture, the project stands to benefit growers and builders across the UK and Europe. By demonstrating the technique at a popular science and discovery centre, the idea is to help spread the word among the 75,000-plus people who visit the site each year.
Without Government support, however, the landmark project will be killed off and future opportunities to learn from the renewable energy project will disappear.
“We really do need to know where the Government stands now,” says project leader Karl Hansen. “I sincerely hope that all the hard work on the project over the last five years is not allowed to go to waste.”
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