What are the parties pledging for nature?

With most major political parties waking up to the need for a better future for our planet and our wildlife, it begs the question, what exactly are the parties pledging for nature at the General Election?

Are you still awake? I wouldn’t blame you if you weren’t at this point, 4 national votes in 5 years can do that to a person. Still, for those of you who, like me, have been waiting years for an election where supporting our natural world is finally on the national agenda, this is a magical moment! A crackling wave of environmental enthusiasm is sweeping the country and all the major political parties are waking up to the fact that we are demanding a better future; both for our planet and our wildlife locally!

When we launched our plan for a Wilder 2030 we said that trying to protect the scraps of habitat we have left isn’t enough anymore. It is time for our country to take a lead in bringing back  the vibrant biodiversity that is our national heritage! With global heating threatening to create a more unstable climate for wildlife and people, we need to see decarbonisation of the economy and a commitment to make space for nature.

Too Long Didn’t Read

If you can’t bear reading through the policies in detail then enjoy a brief analysis of each of the main 6 parties’ commitments that relate to the environment and wildlife:

 

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The Conservatives

The Conservative manifesto is based on the principle that we can use free market innovation to reduce our environmental impact over time. They are not promising large sums of money in any one area but are pledging small funds to help boost private sector green investment.

They are pledging to get to a net zero economy by 2050, ban new petrol/diesel cars by 2040 and their largest spending commitment is a £100 billion infrastructure fund to spend on items such as improving roads, with smaller pots of money for cycling routes and home insulation. They support Heathrow Expansion and are also promising to make house planning laws simpler.

They are pledging to bring in a new, post-Brexit agricultural subsidy system to improve biodiversity and want a new Environment Bill to protect and restore the natural environment.  

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Labour

The Labour manifesto represents a desire to use very large scale public investment and nationalisation of several key industries in a way that also rapidly decarbonises the economy. This ‘planned economy’ model has several notable features including a focus on government spending and public initiatives rather than private investment.

To reach a zero-carbon economy in the 2030as, they are pledging: a £250 billion National Investment bank for decarbonisation, a £250 billion Green Transformation Fund (over 10 years), large investment in publically owned rail and bus routes and an upgrade of almost all housing stock for energy efficiency.

They are also pledging 10 new national parks, 300 million trees planted a year, and several legal changes to protect wildlife, including an Environment Act. They support Heathrow expansion and spend a lot of the manifesto talking about natural climate solutions and biodiversity initiatives.

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The Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrat manifesto focuses on ‘decarbonising capitalism’ so promotes significant legislation and regulations to force companies to reduce their impact. They want to create a Green Investment Bank , end fossil fuel subsidies and stack the economy in a way that makes it harder for companies to resist environmentally friendly changes.

They have pledged a zero-carbon economy by 2045,  oppose any airport expansion in the UK, will tax frequent flyers, ban internal combustion engine vehicles by 2030, will cut taxes on electric vehicles, convert the rail network to low emission by 2035, support large rail projects like HS2 and will make all new homes zero-carbon by 2021

Like the other big parties they are committing to an ambitious Environment Act and want a new government department to solely focus on climate and environmental issues. There are a fair few mentions of habitat conservation and tree planting as well.

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The Green Party

The Green party manifesto is built around the idea that our current economic system is out of control and having plundered the natural resources of the planet, has directly caused the climate crisis. They want to end the focus on economic growth and GDP as government aims and instead focus all policy, taxation and spending on ‘social and environmental justice’.

Their policy platform is unashamedly radical and includes headlines such: as a ‘Green New Deal’ of £100 Billion investment per year to transform the economy, an ambitious 10 year plan for England to become carbon neutral by 2030, a carbon tax on all emissions including the phasing in of significant taxes on all fuels including petrol diesel and aviation fuel, £2.5 billion on new cycle routes, 10 million homes retrofitted to an EPC rating of A in 10 years, large investments in public transport and a range of policies designed to reduce personal car ownership and long-distance travel.

They are also planning a large change to agriculture with a phased meat and dairy tax to reduce emissions, a shift for 50% of agriculture to ‘agro-ecological’ farming and pledge to decommission all North Sea oil rigs and create new jobs based on emerging sustainable technology.

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The Brexit Party

The Brexit Party did not produce a manifesto since they say that manifesto promises are unreliable and often broken immediately after an election. Instead they produced a ‘Contract with the People’ that makes a small number of key pledges rather than a large policy document. Their philosophy is built around independent free trade with the world and free-market driven solutions.

Given their electioneering style there are only a few environmentally related policies to focus on but a headline is that they want to plant millions of trees to absorb carbon dioxide, banning the export of UK waste and encouraging the economy by cutting fuel duty on petrol and diesel vehicles.

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The UK Independence Party (UKIP)

UKIP’s manifesto promises the end to globalism and promotes populist policies that restore traditional values and a sense of Britain independent from significant influence from the rest of the world. They see the expansion of building and development as evidence of the impact of immigration and so want to expand Green-belt protections to preserve local culture and landscapes. They also want to prevent large scale deforestation.

The biggest environmental effects of the UKIP manifesto would be the end to the attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, withdrawing the UK from the Paris Climate Agreement, reversing the Climate Change Act, ending subsidy or support for renewable energy and bringing back coal as a major energy supply for the country.

Now for the detailed bit!

Energy and Decarbonisation – Avoiding the Climate Crisis

From heating our homes, vehicles, food  and consumer products; a lot of modern life is built on fossil fuel use that is driving ecological and  climate breakdown.  What will the parties do to create a low-carbon economy for the future?

Conservatives

  • Not support fracking unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely
  • Invest £500 million to help energy-intensive industries move to low-carbon techniques.
  • Invest £800 million to build the first fully deployed carbon capture storage cluster by the mid-2020s.
  • Help lower energy bills by investing £9.2 billion in the energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals
  • Double International Climate Finance
  • Reach our Net Zero by 2050 target with a £640 million new Nature for Climate fund. 75,000 acres of trees a year by the end of the next Parliament, as well as restoring our Peatland.
  • £1 billion in completing a fast-charging network to ensure that everyone is within 30 miles of a rapid electric vehicle charging station. We will consult on the earliest date we can phase out the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars, while minimising the impact on drivers and businesses
  • Invest in superbus networks
  • Support commuter cycling routes, so that more people can cycle safely to work and more families can go out together
  • We will create a new £350 million Cycling Infrastructure Fund
  • Support the Third Runway at Heathrow
  • We will support the creation of new kinds of homes that have low energy bills and which support our environmental targets and will expect all new streets to be lined with trees.
  • We will use our £1 billion Ayrton Fund to develop affordable and accessible clean energy – partnering with private investment
  • Encourage the public sector to ‘Buy British’.

Labour

  • 400 Billion national transformation fund spend in a way that is compatible with climate and environmental goals
  • £250 Billion National Investment Bank to invest in a decarbonised economy
  • Nationalisation of the energy, bus and rail system  with a restoration of 3000 bus routes, free bus travel for under 25s , full rail electrification across the country, publically owned freight operators,  a ‘Crossrail for the North’ and expansion of High Speed Rail to Scotland
  • Commit to net-zero-carbon energy system in the 2030s with 90% electricity and 50% heating from renewables in 2030
  • Ban combustion engine vehicles by 2030
  • Support Heathrow expansion
  • Upgrade almost all homes in the country to high energy efficiency
  • 3 new giga factories to develop battery storage for homes and vehicles
  • Zero carbon standard for all new homes
  • Windfall tax on oil companies
  • Approve onshore wind farms, trial tidal energy and build new nuclear plants
  • 250 billion pounds over 10 years for a Green Transformation Fund to develop renewables, reduce vehicle emissions, decarbonise industry, support biodiversity net gain and promote natural climate solutions.
  • Produce a ‘People’s access to food fund’ that ensure our diets become more sustainable.
  • Commit to reducing net farming emissions to zero by 2040.

Liberal Democrats

  • Increase government expenditure on climate and environmental objectives, reaching at least five per cent of the total within five years.
  • Create  a new Green Investment Bank and increase funding  to change farming and land use
  • End fossil fuel subsidies by 2025, and provide transition funding.
  • Invest to get 80 per cent renewable electricity in the UK by 2030.
  • Ban fracking
  • Provide an additional £12 billion over five years  to support  tidal and wave power, energy storage, demand response, smart grids and hydrogen
  • Reduce emissions from buildings by providing free retrofits for low-income homes, piloting a new subsidised Energy-Saving Homes scheme, graduating Stamp Duty Land Tax by the energy rating of the property and reducing VAT on home insulation
  • Require all new buildings to be built to a zero-carbon standard by 2021, rising to a more ambitious (‘Passivhaus’) standard by 2025
  • Increase minimum energy efficiency standards for privately rented properties and remove the cost cap on improvements
  • Adopt a Zero-Carbon Heat Strategy, and promote heat pump installation
  • Supporting carbon capture and storage and new low-carbon processes for cement and steel production.
  • Provide  advice to companies on cutting emissions
  • Expand higher green criteria in public procurement policy
  • End support from UK Export Finance for fossil fuel-related activities.

The Greens

  • UK emissions net-zero by 2030
  • Carbon tax on all fossil fuels imports, domestic extraction, imported energy, manufacturing, industry, consumer fuels, diesel petrol, aviation fuels and agriculture
  • Tax levy on domestic flights and frequent  flyer tax on long-haul flights
  • Reduction in public transport fares to be cheaper than car travel: £3.5 billion p.a.
  • Support private sector to kick-start low carbon investment: £1 billion p.a.
  • Double the size of the electricity grid: £10.4 billion p.a.
  • Improvements to energy storage system: £5.3 billion p.a.
  • Increase Renewable electricity generation: £12 billion p.a.
  • Connect our power supply to Europe to regulate renewable energy supply
  • Funding local authorities to better insulate all homes and deep retrofit of 1 million homes a year: £24.6 billion p.a. (10 million homes in 10 years)
  • Funding local authorities to better insulate non-domestic buildings: £7 billion p.a.
  • All new homes to be zero-carbon
  • Ban all new petrol and diesel cars by 2030
  • Reduce urban speed limit to 20mph and non-major road limit to 40mph to increase fuel efficiency
  • Promote domestic holidays with tax exemptions to reduce flights
  • Change regulations to make all home improvements energy efficient
  • All new housing to be car free
  • Change planning to heavily support  onshore wind
  • 70% of demand supplied by wind energy by 2030. Other renewables to cover most of remaining 30%
  • Remove all fossil fuel subsidies
  • Expand bus priority routes on roads and improve bus stops
  • Research and development for green industry: £6 billion p.a.
  • Upgrading rail capacity, including electrification: £12.2 billion p.a.
  • Upgrading cycle ways and footpaths infrastructure: £2.5 billion p.a.
  • Electric vehicles and infrastructure for charging: £2.5 billion p.a.
  • Providing a climate adaption fund for local authorities: £3 billion p.a.
  • Increasing international aid from 0.7 to 1% of GDP: £6.5 billion p.a.  (focused on environmental and social goals) 
  • Scrap HS2 and government road building plans

Brexit Party

  • Scrap HS2
  • Invest 50% of the foreign aid budget ( £40 Billion over 5 years) in road and rail schemes
  • Pledge to plant millions of trees to capture CO2
  • Cut VAT on domestic fuel use to encourage the economy
  • Reduce import tariffs to encourage long-distance trade

UKIP

  • Scrap HS2 
  • Reopen old branch line rail routes

  • Increase bus services
  • Expand Gatwick and regional airports
  • Reduce tax on diesel and petrol cars and increase taxes on electric cars
  • Scrap the Climate Change Act and take the UK out of the Paris Climate Agreement
  • End subsidies for Wind and Solar power
  • Rejuvenate the British coal industry , nuclear power and encourage fracking
© Terry Whittaker/2020VISION

© Terry Whittaker/2020VISION

Waste and pollution - Cleaning up the planet

Plastics and rubbish eaten by marine life, micro plastics building up in the food chain and other waste items all damage our precious local habitats.

Liberal Democrats

  • Ban non-recyclable single-use plastics within three years and an ambition to end plastic waste exports by 2030
  • Support EU ‘right to repair’ legislation for consumer goods, so helping small repair businesses and community groups combat ‘planned obsolescence’.
  • Extend deposit return schemes for all food and drink bottles and containers
  • Waste recycling target of 70 per cent in England and extend separate food waste collections to at least 90 per cent of homes by 2024.

Labour

  • A new clean air act to enshrine advisory air quality standards into law
  • 4.5 billion for improved waste and recycling infrastructure.

Conservatives

  • We will increase penalties for fly-tipping, make those on community sentences clean up their parks and streets, and introduce a deposit return scheme to incentivise people to recycle plastic and glass.
  • We will consult and then ban the export of plastic waste to non-OECD countries
  • Will introduce a new levy to increase the proportion of recyclable plastics in packaging.

The Greens  

  • Ban all single use plastics for packaging and extend plastic tax to bottles, micro plastics and other single-use plastics
  • Require all corporations to pay the full cost of the recycling and disposal of their waste and packaging.
  • Embed ‘right to repair’ legislation and require 10 year warranties to reduce waste and forced obsolescence

Brexit Party 

  • Ban all waste exports and recycle our waste

UKIP

  • Aim to increase recycling rates and waste incineration
Microplastics collected in Sian Ka'an using the Big Microplastic Survey © David Jones/Just One Ocean

Microplastics collected in Sian Ka'an using the Big Microplastic Survey © David Jones/Just One Ocean

Environmental Standards –

Protecting what we have is an important foundation but new rules and laws need to push businesses, decision makers and individuals to make better decisions for nature – restoring and rebuilding ecosystems and bringing life back.

Labour

  • A new Environment Act to protect wildlife and habitats
  • New marine national parks and an extended network of marine protected areas
  • An extension of ‘Blue Belt’ provisions in global oceans and campaign for a full international whale hunting ban
  • Preservation of the Antarctic Treaty 
  • Campaign for a new ocean treaty and Arctic ocean treaty,  to protect 30% of the world’s oceans
  • Nationalise water authorities and set up a national water agency to improve water quality.
  • 50% of rivers and lakes will have good ecological status by 2027 ( an increase of 34%)
  • Implement recommendations of the third review of Special Protected Areas  to protect vulnerable species
  • Consult on wildlife friendly planning laws such as insect bricks in houses and badger tunnels under new roads.
  • End the badger cull and enforce the laws on hunting, baiting and poisoning
  • Review the impact of beaver re-introductions
  • Meet international obligations under the Aarhus convention to establish citizen assemblies and participation in environmental decision making
  • Consult on enhanced wildlife protections, mitigations and compensation in planning laws.
  • Consult on new planning rules to stop developers building in floodplains and to ensure net biodiversity gains in all development.

Liberal Democrats

  • Introduce a Nature Act to restore the natural environment, improving water, air, soil and biodiversity, and supported by funding streams of at least £18 billion over five years
  • Require all companies and financial services  to set targets  consistent with the Paris Agreement on climate change, promote green investment and to report on their implementation; and establish a general corporate duty of care for the environment
  • A new Department for Climate Change and Natural Resources to  coordinate government-wide action to make the economy sustainable resource-efficient and zero-carbon
  • Establish UK and local Citizens’ Climate Assemblies to engage the public in tackling the climate emergency
  • Force local authorities to produce a Zero Carbon Strategy, including plans for local energy, transport and land use, and devolve powers and funding to enable every council to implement it
  • Guarantee an Office of Environmental Protection (laid out in the Environment Act), to enforce compliance with climate and environmental targets
  • Ensure that sustainability lies at the heart of fisheries policy, rebuilding depleted fish stocks to achieve their former abundance
  • Increase the budget for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, ensuring that agencies such as Natural England and the Environment Agency are properly funded
  • Pass a Clean Air Act, based on World Health Organisation guidelines, enforced by a new Air Quality Agency
  • Work within the EU to ensure that future trade agreements require high environmental  standards.

Conservatives

  • Environment Bill will guarantee that we will protect and restore our natural environment after leaving the EU
  • new £500 million Blue Planet Fund to help protect our oceans from plastic pollution, warming sea temperatures and overfishing, and extend the Blue Belt programme to preserve the maritime environment. We will continue to lead diplomatic efforts to protect 30 per cent of the world’s oceans by 2030
  • We will set up a new independent Office For Environmental Protection and introduce our own legal targets, including for air quality
  • End the Common Agricultural Policy and move to a system based on ‘public money for public goods’
  • In return for funding, (farmers) must farm in a way that protects and enhances our natural environment
  • Legal commitment to fish sustainably.

The Greens

  • Ban new nuclear power
  • Make ‘Greenfield’ planning permission much harder to get
  • Ban airport and road expansion
  • Legislate for companies to be accountable for environmental impacts alongside responsibilities to shareholders
  • Prevent building on floodplains
  • Work in the EU to reform agricultural and fisheries policies to be more sustainable
  • Strengthen SSI, Green Belt and other protected areas  
  • Create new  ‘ecocide’ law to prevent crimes against the natural environment
  • A new ‘Sustainable Economy Act’ to improve soil quality and biodiversity
  • A Nature GCSE to teach children to value nature
  • End badger culling
  • Ban all animal killing for sport including fox hunting, deer and game shooting, snaring and trapping
  • Introduce an ‘Animal Sentience’ policy

Brexit Party

No policies in the 'Contract with the People'

UKIP

  • No trade deals that cause large scale deforestation
  • Aim to address excessive packaging
  • Free Business by reducing unnecessary regulation
  • 1 million homes on brownfield sites and new regulations to protect the Greenbelt around cities and towns

 

Habitat Creation © Terry Whittaker/2020VISION

Wetland habitat creation for the RSPB by Breheny Civil Engineers at Bowers Marsh RSPB Reserve, Essex, UK. Marbled White butterfly (Melanargia galathea) on thistle. - © Terry Whittaker/2020VISION

Agriculture – Helping farmers help nature

Farmers, gamekeepers, fishers and landowners are increasingly aware of the negative impacts that overly intensive agricultural practice has on our precious eco-systems. They need politicians to support their goals to make better environmental choices.

A significant proportion of average farm income currently comes from EU agricultural subsidies. As the UK government chooses a system to replace this funding, we must ensure that the new scheme achieves positive outcomes for nature and wider society..

Liberal democrats

  • Redeploy Agricultural payments to restoring nature and protecting the countryside, preventing flooding and combating climate change through measures to increase soil carbon and expand native woodland
  • Introduce a National Food Strategy to promote  sustainable food.

Conservatives

  • End use of the Common Agricultural Policy and move to a system based on ‘public money for public goods’
  • In return for funding, (farmers) must farm in a way that protects and enhances our natural environment
  • legal commitment to fish sustainably.

Labour

  • Reform agricultural payments  to reward the provision of ‘public goods’ including soil and habitat restoration
  • Consult to set targets for pesticide and fungicide reduction that could reduce damage to insects and other invertebrates
  • Establish a horticulture fund – limited to small landowners, to support organic farming methods
  • Support a maximum sustainable yield of fishing catches to promote conservation of fisheries.

The Greens 

  • Research and development for farming & forestry: £1 billion p.a.
  • 50% of farms doing agro-forestry by 2030, encouraged by phasing in a tax on meat and dairy products over 10 years
  • Refocus all farming and land subsidies to move away from intensive livestock farming
  • Reduce pesticide and fungicide use by at least 50% .
  • Ban dangerous pesticides that harm invertebrates
  • Maintain ban on production or import of GM crops or animal products with a GM diet
  • Prohibit routine antibiotic use in farming

Brexit Party 

Maintain current agricultural subsidies and grants post-Brexit

UKIP

  • Leave the EU agricultural payment scheme and fisheries policy.
  • Move to an agriculture subsidy system that supports environmental protections.
  • End the fishery discard system of quotas  

 

 

Farming on the Isle of Wight

© Lucy Temple

Making Space for Nature - wild spaces for wildlife

Perhaps more important than any other single policy, politicians need to commit to giving our wildlife the space it needs to thrive. We need a Nature Recovery Network of wildlife-friendly landscapes that allow flows of species across the land. But what do our politicians think about giving over space to a wilder future?

Labour

  • 10 billion pounds over  10 years to support nature, natural climate solutions, biodiversity recovery, waste, habitat recovery  on land and sea
  • National Parks focus with £25m per year increase in national park funding
  • Aim to restore a natural environment network of connected areas for wildlife
  • 10 new national parks (increasing national park land area by 50%) managed by  a new authority with a 50m budget
  • Spend 2.5 Billion in the first 5 years, on tree planting and sustainable commercial forestry with a 300 million tree planting target for the next parliament.  This target includes both native species and coniferous forestry, with space set aside for  squirrel  and pine marten population recovery
  • Aim to support natural habitats such as peat lands, saltmarshes  and grasslands with 1.2 Billion for habitat restoration.

Conservatives

  • We welcome the Glover Review and will create new National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as well as making our most loved landscapes greener, happier,
  • In all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection
  • We will make the coast to coast path across the most beautiful areas of the North a National Trail
  • £100 billion in additional infrastructure spending
  • Flood defences will receive £4 billion in new funding
  • We will make a £28.8 billion investment in strategic and local roads
  • Make the planning system simpler for house building
  • We will protect and enhance the Green Belt. We will improve poor quality land, increase biodiversity and make our beautiful countryside more accessible for local community use. In order to safeguard our green spaces, we will continue to prioritise brownfield development, particularly for the regeneration of our cities and towns.

Liberal Democrats

  • Planting of 60 million trees a year and introducing requirements for the greater use of sustainably harvested wood in construction
  • Invest in large scale restoration of peatlands, heathland, native woodlands, saltmarshes, wetlands and coastal waters, through piloting ‘rewilding’ approaches
  • Significantly increase the amount of accessible green space, including protecting up to a million acres, completing the coastal path, exploring a ‘right to roam’ for waterways and creating a new designation of National Nature Parks
  • Establish a ‘blue belt’ of marine protected areas covering at least 50 per cent of UK waters by 2030
  • Create a new ‘British Overseas Ecosystems Fund’ for large-scale environmental restoration projects in the UK Overseas Territories and sovereign bases, home to 94 per cent of our unique wildlife.
  • £5 billion fund for flood prevention and climate adaptation over the course of the parliament.

The Greens 

  • Large scale restoration of natural habitats, rewilding, reforestation and regenerative agriculture to help the land absorb carbon and promote biodiversity.
  • 700 million trees by 2030
  • Deploy natural flood management solutions such as soil restoration
  • Replant and expand hedgerows.
  • Invest in the ‘greening’ of cities and urban areas for wildlife and increased social spaces
  • 30% of UK domestic water to be fully protected marine areas by 2030
  • Increase ‘blue belt’ waters protection to 50%

Brexit Party 

  • Simplify planning  laws for brownfield sites and simplify planning permission to encourage house building

UKIP 

  • End population growth from immigration that causes damage to the Green belt and the natural environment
  • End the sale and privatisation of woodlands

 

Did you make it to end? Well done you! We need more people to know what you now know – so they can make informed choices next week.

So please, get out there and talk to everyone you know  share this on social media and please vote for a wilder future at this election.

(this article was updated on 10/12 to include the Green party, Brexit Party and UKIP)