What are the major parties committing to on environmental issues?

1 July 2024, 14:02 | Updated: 1 July 2024, 14:34

LBC breaks down parties' environment pledges ahead of the election
LBC breaks down parties' environment pledges ahead of the election. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Taylor

As we prepare to head to the polls this Thursday, it's evident that we live in a divided Britain, where any issue can be politicised.

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However, the British public can often find common ground in prioritising care for our natural environment and wildlife, ensuring our homes are heated in affordable and sustainable ways, and tackling health problems linked to poor environmental quality.

How the major parties approach these crucial considerations deserves our attention as we cast our votes.

From sewage dumping to the North Sea, LBC brings you a cheat sheet comparing where the five main parties (Conservatives, Labour, Greens, Liberal Democrats, and Reform) stand on key environmental issues.

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Nature and Environmental Conservation

We are in a biodiversity crisis, meaning that the species extinction rate is higher than we’ve seen in any other time in human history. Perhaps more visible (and odorous) is the inexcusable dumping of sewage into our rivers and coastal areas. How do the prime ministerial candidates suggest we curb these crises in the UK?

Four of the five major parties have committed to transforming the UK’s water and sewage management. Sir Ed Davey’s Liberal Democrats have stated they will ‘end the sewage scandal’ by creating a tougher regulator, and transitioning water companies into public benefit corporations.

Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay’s Green Party would also put water companies back into public ownership. Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour party commits to empowering water regulators to block bonus payments to executives of water companies polluting the UK’s rivers and coastlines.

Sunak’s Conservative Party would also ban executive bonuses for polluting water companies and reinvest fines into river restoration. Nigel Farage’s Reform UK party has pledged to make water companies half publicly owned, and half owned by UK pension funds, but make no commitments on tackling sewage dumping.

When it comes to helping nature across the UK, the Conservatives commit to designating a new National Park, and will make the Global Ocean Treaty law in the UK, meaning our seabeds are protected from harmful deep-sea mining.

There is no mention of nature in Reform UK’s manifesto (or ‘contract’).

The Green Party and the Liberal Democrats have pledged to conserve 30% of our land and sea by 2030 to preserve British wildlife for future generations, with the Lib Dems also aiming to plant 60 million trees a year. Meanwhile, Labour pledges to work with farmers to ensure nature conservation works alongside agricultural practices, whilst establishing three new National Forests. 

Climate Change and Energy

The climate crisis is perhaps the greatest challenge we face as a global community –. The Paris Agreement, ratified in 2015 by 196 countries, aims to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to limit catastrophic climate change. The way in which we generate energy in the UK is a defining factor in whether we reach our ‘net zero’ goals as a country.

Perhaps most transformative is the proposition of Labour’s Great British Energy, a publicly owned company built upon renewable energy from wind, solar, and hydrogen, giving the UK clean power by 2030, and reducing our reliance on non-renewable energy sources from elsewhere.

The Liberal Democrats pledge to build an at least 90% renewable grid by 2030, and the Green Party aim for 70% of the national grid to be powered solely by offshore wind by 2030, with solar and onshore wind to close the gap by 2035.

The Greens, Liberal Democrats, and Labour will ban any new coal mines, with Greens going a step further in banning all new fossil fuel extraction projects, introducing a carbon tax upon fossil fuels, and ending all subsidies to the oil and gas industries.

Conversely, Reform UK will continue to support coal extraction and will scrap carbon reduction plans altogether. The Conservatives pledge to continue oil and gas production from the North Sea, and treble offshore wind capacity.

Energy for Our Homes

Whilst moving to renewable energy sources is crucial, we must also reduce our energy consumption through energy efficiency measures, which will in turn help to lower our skyrocketing energy bills.

The Labour Party pledges an extra £6.6bn in home energy efficiency improvements, whilst the Liberal Democrats would provide free insulation and heat pumps for low-income households, demanding all new homes to be zero carbon. 

Similarly, the Conservatives would spend £6bn on energy efficiency across 3 years. With a bigger financial commitment, the Green Party pledges £29bn over the next 5 years to insulate homes.

Reform UK would scrap VAT on energy bills but makes no mention of energy efficiency measures for housing.

Air Quality and Transport

Poor air quality in the UK places a huge burden on our NHS, and tragically takes between 28,000 and 36,000 lives each year, making it the largest environmental risk to public health. How do the manifestos compare?

The Liberal Democrats commit to passing a new Clean Air Act based on the World Health Organization’s guidelines and promises to reinstate the requirement for all new cars and small vans sold from 2030 to be zero emission.

They also aim to roll out new walking and cycling networks, alongside a suite of research projects into zero emission aviation for the UK.

When it comes to aviation, The Green Party aims to ban domestic flights or trips which would take less than 3 hours by train (following in France’s footsteps), as well as bringing in a frequent flyer levy.

Denyer and Ramsay’s party also commit to scaling up spending on public transport electrification and a £2.5bn injection to active travel routes each year. The Greens would also push for a Clean Air Act.

Labour also has a focus on decarbonising aviation and will ban new petrol and diesel car sales from 2030. Starmer’s party also proposes Great British Railways to bring failing franchises into public ownership and raise standards in our public transport system.

The Tories have pledged to reverse the ULEZ expansion and rule out Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. They are also committing to a £2 fare cap on public buses, and reform across UK rail.

Reform UK echoes the Conservative’s claims of a ‘War on Drivers’ by scrapping ULEZ Clean Air Zones and Net Zero altogether, meaning no new zero emission vehicle rules would come into place. 

There is no mention of air quality in Labour, Reform UK, or the Conservative’s manifestoes.

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