BRITAIN has failed to shake off its tag as the dirty man of Europe, the Government was forced to admit in January 2004.

The UK ranks 91st in the world for its environmental performance – lagging behind countries traditionally thought to have appalling environmental records, like Russia, Brazil and Congo.

In the European Union, only Belgium came below the UK, Environment minister Elliot Morley admitted in a parliamentary written answer to Liberal Democrat Environment spokesman Norman Baker.

Mr Baker said that the Environmental Sustainability Index – which is backed by the American Yale University – showed Tony Blair had failed to honour his pledge to put the environment “at the heart of Government”.

He said: “This international comparison should be a severe embarrassment to the Government. Tony Blair is not interested in the environment and never mentions it. He sees the environment as a ’humdrum issue’ just like Margaret Thatcher before him.

“The only environmental legislation in the Queen’s Speech was to bail out the nuclear industry. The departure of his Environment minister Michael Meacher means he has lost the last fig leaf covering his embarrassment.

“The environment deserves better than this.”

Friends of the Earth’s Tony Juniper said that despite scoring some environmental successes, the survey exposed the UK’s ecological shortcomings.

He said: “Britain consumes far more than our fare share of the world’s natural resources. We drive too much, we fly too much and we recycle too little."

The Environmental Sustainability Index was commissioned by the influential World Economic Forum to provide an overview of world ecological performance.

It was undertaken by the Centre for International Earth Science Information Network at New York’s Columbia University and backed by the Yale Centre for Environmental Law and Policy.

In the survey Britain is exposed as falling way behind its peer countries like France and Germany on six major environmental points.

The survey revealed that the UK has an air quality 82 points below the peer average, while land quality is more than twice as bad as fellow European countries.

But it is in the area of reducing consumption that Britain is shamed. The study found that we trail more than 100 points well behind our peers when it comes to reducing air pollution.

Efforts to reduce waste and consumption in the UK are more than twice as bad as those in the European peer group.

And the survey found that the UK scores a paltry 41 out of 100 points when it comes to “global stewardship” – Britain’s ability to protect the wider environment.

Environment minister Elliot Morley claimed that the survey was “profoundly flawed”.