Party conferences reveal clues to policy priorities
- Business & Industry ,
- Natural resources ,
- Waste ,
- Pollution & Waste Management
Environmental practitioners have expressed a mixed reaction to the debates at the three main party conferences.
Key speeches by the party leaders, cabinet members and shadow cabinet members revealed few new concrete policy proposals (see below).
Prime minister David Cameron’s speech contained one reference to the environment, that the UK is “leading not following on climate change”.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said that his party would set a national goal for Britain to become a world leader in the green economy, creating one million jobs by 2025 and decarbonise electricity by 2030. Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg committed the Liberal Democrats to five green laws, including on energy efficiency and decarbonising the electricity system.
Philip Pearson, senior policy officer for energy and climate change at the Trades Union Congress, said: “Of the three parties, two of them get it, the other doesn’t.”
Nick Molho, executive director at the Aldersgate Group welcomed cross-party commitment to the green investment bank. “All three parties provided clear indication that it would play a part in the low-carbon economy,” he said.
While the parties differed on the rate at which the economy could be decarbonised, there was broad support for a strong European target and a recognition that this would be in line with the UK’s, Molho added.
Although many politicians acknowledged that the green deal energy efficiency scheme is not working, the detail on how to improve it was lacking from the three main parties, he said.
Martin Baxter, executive director of policy at IEMA, said that all parties tend to play to their members and core voters rather than the wider world during conferences. “The critical thing is what policies they will put in their manifestos and I don’t think we have a clear idea yet of what will go in.”
He added that the surge in support for the Green Party could influence the other parties. Labour has appointed shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan to lead work on how the party can defend itself against losing votes to the Greens, whose membership in England and Wales has increased by almost two-thirds since the start of 2014, to more than 22,500.
Starter homes would be exempt from zero-carbon homes standards, prime minister David Cameron said. Environment secretary Liz Truss said she was “determined” to restore habitats, rivers and flood defences. Energy minister Matthew Hancock argued that the nation must invest in shale gas and new nuclear, and ensure that renewables support provides the best value for billpayers. Chancellor George Osborne promised that he would “tap shale gas, commission nuclear power and renewables”, build high-speed rail, and decide where to build a new airport runway .
Electricity generation from coal would be banned after 2025, energy and climate secretary Ed Davey said. Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg pledged five green laws: to reduce carbon emissions from the electricity sector; legal targets for clean air and water; give everyone access to green space; boost energy efficiency and renewable energy; and prioritise the shift to “green cars”.
Energy efficiency would be put at the heart of energy policy, with free home energy reports for 500,000 homeowners and energy saving measures retrofitted on 200,000 homes of those on low incomes, with councils in charge of delivery. Councils would also be given more powers to tackle air pollution. The party would introduce a national programme of low-emission zones, and establish a new climate adaptation programme.
Demand for fossil fuels will peak by 2025 if all national net-zero pledges are implemented in full and on time, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has forecast.
The Green Homes Grant is set to deliver only a fraction of the jobs and improvements intended, leading to calls for more involvement from local authorities in future schemes.
COVID-19 recovery packages have largely focused on protecting, rather than transforming, existing industries, and have been a “lost opportunity” for speeding up the global energy transition.
Half of the world's 40 largest listed oil and gas companies will have to slash their production by at least 50% by the 2030s to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement, new analysis has found.
None of England’s water and sewerage companies achieved all environmental expectations for the period 2015 to 2020, the Environment Agency has revealed. These targets included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012, and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.
The UK’s pipeline for renewable energy projects could mitigate 90% of job losses caused by COVID-19 and help deliver the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. That is according to a recent report from consultancy EY-Parthenon, which outlines how the UK’s £108bn “visible pipeline” of investible renewable energy projects could create 625,000 jobs.
Billions of people worldwide have been unable to access safe drinking water and sanitation in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a progress report from the World Health Organisation focusing on the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.