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UK General Election 2024: How to Vote for Climate Action

June 2024 by Alice Henderson

Image credit: Red Dot via Unsplash

With election season in full swing and the 4th July approaching faster than a high-speed bullet train, there is a range of tough issues for the next Government to tackle – from the cost-of-living crisis to the housing crisis to, of course, the climate crisis (a hat-trick of crises – what a treat!)

On a positive note, the long-awaited general election offers an opportunity for people of all walks of life to show up and take action on the issues that are most important to them.

In the lead-up, there are rightly all sorts of analyses and opinions swirling around about the policies and promises and how these may (or may not) translate into real-life action. We have whipped through the manifestos of the key political parties in the UK to see where each party sits on key climate-related issues. This is summarised below to help you vote for strong climate leadership.

 

Conservatives

The Conservatives are targeting net zero by 2050 and set out in their manifesto what they call a “pragmatic and proportionate approach to net zero”.

Whilst Sunak and Starmer are on the same page that “nobody will be forced to rip out their boiler”, back in 2023 the Conservatives chose to row back on key milestones on the path to net zero, including delaying the ban on sales of petrol and diesel cars and domestic boilers.

Their 2024 manifesto focuses heavily on energy security and tackling energy bills, as well as commitment to investment in renewables including wind and solar but also in new gas power stations. Notably, the Conservatives will not put a stop to new North Sea oil and gas licences.

The Conservatives would also scale up nuclear power, including the revival of plans for a new nuclear power station on Anglesey. They want to treble off-shore wind capacity, invest in carbon capture and storage and invest £1.1 billion into the Green Industries Growth Accelerator – a fund announced to support the expansion of clean energy supply chains across the UK.

£6 billion has been earmarked for upgrading existing homes to improve energy efficiency over 3 years, but this falls significantly short of the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) estimate that at least £64 billion investment is needed over 10 years. They have also committed to reviving the Renters Reform Bill which will include a range of reforms to support tenants’ rights.

 

Labour

Front-runners in the election polls, Labour’s manifesto promises to put an end to what they call ‘Conservative Chaos’ through a suite of policies which will make the UK a ‘green energy superpower’.

Also sticking to current targets to meet net zero by 2050, Labour pledge to stop all new North Sea oil and gas licenses in line with scientific recommendations but will not revoke existing licenses and expect gas power stations and oil and gas extraction to continue operating for years to come. Fracking and new coal mines, however, would not be permitted.

To achieve ‘clean power’ by 2030, Labour wants to double on-shore wind, triple solar and quadruple off-shore wind by 2030. They also plan to invest in carbon capture and storage, hydrogen and marine energy, as well as some nuclear projects.

They plan to reinstate the deadline for the ban on the sale of new combustion vehicles to 2030 and invest in upgrading the national electricity grid.

Acknowledging that the climate crisis is the greatest long-term global challenge that we face, a key element of Labour’s manifesto is the creation of a new publicly owned company, Great British Energy. £8.3 billion is pledged over the next parliament for this project which would involve the Government partnering with industry to invest in clean electricity technologies and develop local energy projects.

The manifesto pledges to double government investment in home upgrades but this is a significant roll-back from Labour’s previous ambitions for 19 million homes to be retrofitted to just 5 million over 5 years, and still falls short of the UKGBC estimate.

 

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto cites bold and urgent action on climate change intending to meet net zero by 2045 and 90% renewable electricity generation by 2030.

They are prioritising making homes warmer and cheaper to heat through a ten-year emergency Home Energy Upgrade programme, starting with free insulation and heat pumps for those on low incomes. Private landlords would also be required to boost their home energy performance to EPC C or above.

Restrictions on solar, wind, wave and tidal power would be lifted, and investment directed towards these renewable technologies, along with carbon capture and storage. They would put an end to fossil fuel subsidies and implement bans on fracking and new coal mines.

Their manifesto also seeks to make it cheaper and easier to switch to electric vehicles, restoring the requirement for new vehicles to be zero emission by 2030, electrifying the railways and facilitating local renewable electricity generation.

 

Greens

The Greens are gunning for net zero 10 years sooner than current targets (net zero by 2040) to reflect the urgency of the climate crisis.

A Green Government would work to see wind providing 70% of the UK’s electricity by 2030 with large-scale delivery of new onshore and offshore wind and solar projects, as well as carbon capture, electricity distribution upgrades and community-owned energy projects.

Their manifesto confirms they would also cancel recent fossil fuel licences such as Rosebank and stop all new fossil fuel extraction projects in the UK, remove all oil and gas subsidies and phase out nuclear energy.

The Greens also promise an extensive retrofit programme to insulate existing homes. This would consist of £29bn over the next five years to insulate homes to an EPC B standard or above; £4bn over the next five years to insulate other buildings to a high standard; and £9bn over the next five years for low-carbon heating systems (e.g. heat pumps).

A carbon tax on the biggest polluters, along with a wider wealth tax on the super-rich would fund this ambitious transition.

 

Onward to the polls!

Elections of this magnitude can often feel as extreme and overwhelming as the British weather, with a storm of tricky challenges and enticing taglines.

The politics of climate change is not just about who will be toughest on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and putting the brakes on fossil fuel extraction. Much like the branches of a tree, ‘green’ policies are numerous and far-reaching, covering wider issues such as investment in renewables and public transport infrastructure, retrofitting homes, water pollution, air quality and conserving and enhancing biodiversity to name but a few! Phew!

Ultimately, delivering action on climate through political leadership will not just protect our planet’s natural resources but also our economy, food and energy security, health and wellbeing – unarguably a win-win situation.

There may not always be a perfect solution when it comes to politics but along with our individual and collective efforts in our daily lives, exercising our right to vote in favour of effective climate policy solutions is pivotal in tackling climate change for a more just world.

 

 

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