Labour outlines energy and environment plans

17th May 2017


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Kulbir Bhatti

Commitments to ban fracking, promote energy efficiency and safeguard habitats and species are among pledges in the Labour party manifesto, published yesterday.

The party said its energy policy would ensure security of supply and that the UK meets its climate change targets. It also pledged to cap prices. Public ownership is part of its plan to deliver more renewable energy, which also includes creating locally accountable energy companies and co-operatives.

Renewable energy projects create jobs in the manufacturing and energy sectors, it said. The party also gave its backing to nuclear power, carbon capture and storage and tidal lagoons.

Labour would prioritise maintaining access to the EU internal energy market during negotiations with the EU on the UK’s exit terms. It would also seek to retain access to the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) to protect the UK’s access to research and development and trade in nuclear material.

The party’s approach to Brexit would focus on building a ‘close co-operative future relationship with the EU, not as members, but as partners’. It would scrap the Great Repeal Bill and replace it with legislation to ensure that Brexit does not damage environmental protections, as well as rights for workers and consumers.

The manifesto also promised that a Labour government would never accept the weakening of environmental protections, nor allow environmental standards in the future to lag those of the EU.

The party planned to create a £250bn infrastructure investment fund, which would pay for improvements in transport, energy systems, scientific research and housing. It also endorsed high-speed rail and said it would extend the HS2 rail line to Scotland.

The manifesto also includes the introduction a Clean Air Act to deal with the UK’s illegal levels of air pollution, and protection for marine habitats and species. It would ban neonicotinoids to protect bees, and plant one million native trees to boost wildlife and improve flood management.

Greenpeace said that the manifesto’s vision was strong, but lacked detail. Rosie Rogers, the campaign group’s head of public affairs, said: ‘It all sounds promising, but to convince voters this is more than just a wish list of popular measures, Labour will need to show they have sound policies to enact them.’

Manufacturers’ trade body the EEF doubted that Labour would be able to boost zero carbon and renewable energy and keep prices down. Roz Bulleid, head of climate and environment policy, said: ‘Manufacturers would welcome more support for emerging low-carbon technologies, and maximising the UK supply chain opportunities those might create, but this must not add to the uncompetitive electricity prices UK industry faces compared to EU and international competitors.’

The Green Party said much of Labour’s manifesto was based on its own pledges ahead of the 2015 general election. It also claimed some Labour policies were contradictory, such as pledges to solve air pollution at the same time as backing the expansion of airports and roads.

The Green Party’s manifesto, launched last week, includes plans to introduce an Environmental Protection Act to protect the natural world in the wake of Brexit. The act would create a new environmental regulator and court. It would introduce a bottle deposit scheme to prevent plastic waste, and build ‘democratic, locally-owned energy companies’ to rival the monopoly of the ‘big six’.

Caroline Lucas, the party’s co-leader, said: ‘Our economic prosperity depends on the natural world. It is the ultimate source of everything we make and use – from food and materials to the air we breathe. Even the digital economy depends on rare earth metals and huge amounts of energy. Building a success economy not at odds with protecting our environment, it is impossible without it.’

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