Next Tuesday for the first time in this election campaign, the public will get the chance to put questions directly to the major parties on their ambitions and aims for the environment in the next parliament at the Greener UK Hustings.
The debate will include issues like air quality and pollution, nature protection, international leadership, farming and fisheries, climate change and, perhaps most pertinently, what the UK’s exit from the EU will mean for all of the above.All the parties helpfully gave an idea of where to pitch questions by releasing their election manifestos, giving us a window on the approach they intend to take towards the environment over the coming five years. Here is a quick rundown of what they promise:
The Conservatives have set out five great challenges, one of which is Brexit and a changing world. Although they continue with the line that no deal on leaving the EU will be better than a bad deal, there is a promise that environmental protections currently provisioned by EU law, will continue in UK law as we exit.
They recognise that the UK is at the forefront of action against global climate change and intend to continue to meet the international goal of an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050.
Recognition of the need for mixed energy production is accompanied by a big roll out of shale gas.
Although the manifesto states onshore wind is unsuitable for England, it shows a belief in offshore wind investment and the potential for wind power on Scottish islands.
There is an aim for the UK to have the lowest energy costs in Europe and for smart meters to be offered to every house and business by 2020.
The 2015 promise to upgrade all fuel poor homes to EPC band C by 2030 remains.
A new addition is the focus on a ‘clean’ industrial strategy, focusing on the places with potential for strong economic growth and the creation of millions of jobs, including a scheme to help large companies become more energy efficient by cutting their energy use.
Whilst there is still an intention to build more roads and add more lanes to motorways, there is a promise to make every car zero emission by 2050, through an investment of £600 million.
The Conservatives intend to lead the world in environmental protections. The 2015 pledge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state remains alongside the ongoing commitment for a 25 year plan for the environment.
The same cash total of public subsidies for farmers is guaranteed until 2022, with new agri-environment schemes (to replace the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy) being introduced in the next parliament.
They also intend to support landowners in improving natural flood management through schemes such as improving the quality of water courses.
A promise to conserve the marine environment and continue using the UK overseas territories to create a global blue belt includes an intention for a new regime for commercial fishing that that will preserve and increase fish stocks.
The Greens have made things slightly simpler by releasing their own environment manifesto. In it, they pledge that all existing EU environmental laws, including principles, will be maintained as the UK leaves the EU.
The party will ensure the UK meets its international climate commitments as well as working towards a global temperature rise of below 1.5 degrees.
It pledges to ban fracking, phase out fossil fuel use, bring forward the coal phase-out and support onshore wind and solar power.
The party wants to create a Green Investment and Innovation Centre, introduce a national programme of insulation and retrofitting of existing housing and ensure all new homes are zero carbon by 2020.
The manifesto pledges to clean up the UK’s air by expanding the existing clean air zone network, removing diesel cars from roads through scrappage schemes and investing £2 billion in walking and cycling schemes.
There is an aim to clean up the nation’s seas and waterways by reducing the use of plastic and ending single use plastic.
For the natural environment, the party will introduce an Environment Protection Act that will introduce stronger protections for habitats and wildlife, create a new environment regulator and court, and give everyone a right to have access to local green space.
They want to refocus subsidies for farmers towards more sustainable land management.
New fisheries legislation to maintain sustainable stocks will be accompanied by the completion of the marine protection network around the UK.
The Labour manifesto claims that for exiting the EU, no deal is the worst possible deal. The party wants to continue to co-operate with the EU and ensure that current environmental standards are protected.
They will replace the repeal bill with an EU Rights and Protections Bill that will ensure no detrimental change to environmental protection.
The meeting of international climate targets and transition to low carbon economy is one of the party’s three energy principles.
They want to take energy production into public ownership and will prioritise the UK’s access to the internal energy market.
Labour are committed to renewable energy projects, including tidal lagoons, and recognise that nuclear will continue to be part of the energy supply as well as a need to ban fracking.
The insulation of four million homes will be an infrastructure priority and will be accompanied by interest free loans for landlords to improve property and the improvement of landlord energy efficiency regulation.
The party wants to see the UK at the forefront of the development, manufacture and use of electric vehicles and will introduce a new Clean Air Act to improve the country’s air quality.
They will introduce targets for plastic bottle waste.
On the natural environment, the party promises to safeguard habitats, both on land and at sea, plant a million trees to help with flood management and will champion sustainable farming and fishing.
They will ensure that farmers have continued access to the EU market to ensure continued high standards in food quality and animal welfare, as well as banning neonicotinoids.
The Liberal Democrats accept the results of the 2016 referendum but want to put the final EU deal to another public vote. Either way, they promise to maintain high environmental standards and ensure the closest possible co-operation with the EU on climate change in the future.
They also want to create a Cabinet Committee on Sustainability and an Office for Environmental Responsibility to scrutinise future government environmental actions.
On international climate change the party will support the Paris Agreement by implementing the UK’s international targets fully. It will introduce a Zero Carbon Britain Act with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2040, and to zero emissions by 2050.
They will create a British Housing and Infrastructure Development Board to mobilise investment and expand renewable energy to 60 per cent of generation by 2030.
They will support investment in energy storage, smart grids and carbon capture and storage.
The Green Buildings Act will set new targets including all homes to be EPC band C by 2035, four million properties to receive insulation retrofits by 2022 and the reintroduction of zero carbon standards for new homes.
The Liberal Democrats will introduce a diesel scrappage scheme and ban the sale of diesel cars by 2025.
An Air Quality Plan will include extending ultra-low emission zones and all private hire vehicles and buses will be low or zero emission by 2022.
A Zero Waste Act will include legally binding targets for reducing net consumption, including a waste recycling target of 70 per cent for England, food waste collections for 90 per cent of homes by 2022, and a 5p charge on coffee cups.
A £2 billion pound flood prevention fund will be introduced, as will a Nature Act to put the Natural Capital Committee on a statutory footing.
The party will also increase the amount of accessible green space and plant a tree for every UK citizen.
They will reform water management, protect and restore England’s waterways and establish a blue belt of marine protected areas.
They will refocus subsidy support for farmers towards healthy food, public benefits and effective land management, including countryside protection, flood prevention and climate change mitigation. They will suspend the use of neonicotinoids.
On Tuesday 30 May, the Greener UK Hustings gave the public and environmental organisations the chance to question the major parties’ environment plans ahead of the general election.
Watch the event video
Read the Storify
The event was hosted by the Greener UK coalition, in association with CAFOD and Christian Aid.
[Image: British Parliament, courtesy of Rennett Stowe from Flickr Creative Commons]