Election 2017: how the parties address energy and the environment
25 April 2017
Following the Prime Minister’s shock announcement to call an early General Election this June, voters from all walks of life must once again make a big decision based on a variety of factors.
From the economy to welfare, the NHS to education – and not forgetting how Brexit negotiations are handled – there are several key battlegrounds for all major political parties to deliver their policies on. In this time of environmental changes and newer forms of energy production, it will be interesting to see how the main contenders hope to tackle the key issues concerning energy and the environment.
We’ve taken a look at the pledges made by some of the UK’s main parties at the 2015 election, to get an idea of their stances on the main energy and environmental issues facing the country over the next five years and beyond. With just over a month before we go to the ballot box, will any of these points pose a major influence?
The current governing party has previously sworn to support the existing Climate Change Act 2008, with a broad approach to improving air and water quality. Previous plans included investing over £3 billion to improve the environment, with further intent to shift cars and vans to zero-emissions vehicles by 2050.
High on the Conservative agenda were commitments to protection on Green Belt areas, and encouraging off-shore renewable energy generation by phasing out subsidies new on-shore wind farms. They also back further expansion in new nuclear energy – spearheaded by the Hickley Point C power station in Somerset – and advocate fracking to boost the UK’s gas supply.
While opposing the government on many issues, the Labour Party shares some common ground when it comes to supporting the Paris Agreement and combatting climate change. Labour hopes to reduce carbon emissions from production of electricity to zero, targeting the year 2030 as its goal.
Nuclear and fracking for shale gas are seen as viable methods for new energy production, but Labour insists that regulations need to be more robust, seeking further research into the lasting environmental effects before agreeing to them. However, a key issue has been the economic impact on consumers, with promises of price freezes in an effort to tackle fuel poverty across the country.
The Liberal Democrats approached the 2015 election with a bold aim for a “zero carbon Britain” by 2050, stretching beyond the 80% reduction target laid out in the Climate Change Act. They planned to achieve this by doubling the amount of renewable electricity production by 2020 and promoting the use of electric transport to cut down on fossil fuels.
This could be achieved through increased developments of wind farms both off-shore and on-shore in “appropriate locations”. The Lib Dems also agree that nuclear energy has a role to play in the future of Britain’s energy and that fracking can be useful, but should be approached with care and used in moderation.
In a startling move, UKIP has previously stated its intention to repeal the Climate Change Act, scrapping carbon reduction targets altogether. There is a heightened level of scepticism amongst the party members, calling the relationship between human activity and CO2 levels “open to question”.
By eradicating what it views as unnecessary taxation, businesses would benefit from improved from relaxed restrictions on energy usage. UKIP is committed to protecting the Green Belt to preserve Britain’s countryside outside and keep them distinct from built-up urban areas. The party also believes that there is a strong future in nuclear energy and supports fracking in certain places.
Unlike the other major parties, the Green Party puts the environment as its top priority, stressing the importance of addressing climate change. They argue that the “fundamental changes” are necessary to incorporate environmental concerns with other departments of government for better climate control, with a long-term goal of phasing out coal power stations.
The party is absolutely opposed to nuclear energy – citing it poses “unacceptable risks” – and would ban fracking outright, highlighting its opposition to fossil fuels and concerns based on air and water pollution. As a counter-measure, the Greens hope to increase investment in renewable energy sources, building insulation and flood defences.
In Scotland and Wales
The Scottish National Party hopes to capitalise on wind and tidal energy, thanks to Scotland’s sparse population and miles of windy coastline. Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru hopes to introduce a separate Climate Change Act for reducing emissions in Wales.
Both parties also oppose the development of new nuclear power stations, and have called for a suspension on fracking until further research is carried out.