What will be the environmental priorities of the government elected on July 4th?

Until recently, political parties generally agreed on the actions needed to be taken to combat climate change.  Unfortunately, this consensus has broken down.  Net Zero, sustainable development and environment protection more generally are a political football in this general election campaign.

Ideas in election manifestos range from those deeply committed to fighting climate change to those who are climate sceptics and think Net Zero and decarbonisation is one big con.

Here I am going to discuss what kind of environmental policy and actions we can expect to see when we wake up on July 5th to a brand new elected government.

But who will form the next Government?

I’m writing this 7 days before the general election and the latest poll from electoral calculus suggests that The Labour Party will win a majority of 250 seats  MRP Poll June 2024 (electoralcalculus.co.uk) and form the next government.

John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University Prof John Curtice | University of Strathclyde and the UK’s recognised election guru earlier this year put the probability of Labour forming the next government at 99% Labour has 99 per cent chance of winning next election, says Prof John Curtice (telegraph.co.uk)

However, the only poll that matters is the one on July 4th so I have considered the two likely outcomes from the election.

Labour Party Policies on the Environment.

The big question all of us want to know is:

What will change in the areas of environmental and sustainability policy with a Labour Government?

The answer is quite a lot.

First and foremost, Labour is promising policy stability with a clear industrial strategy to invest in the industries of the future.  It will create a national wealth fund to attract inward investment.  Initially this will support

  • Supply chain development
  • Giga factory development
  • The UK steel industry
  • Carbon Capture and Storage
  • Green Hydrogen production

 

The headline project is decarbonising electricity production by 2030, creating GB Energy as a company owned by the tax payer.  This company will use a range of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and tidal.  It will be the anchor for the creation of 650 000 green jobs with a £15bn pa investment in skills development.

A Labour Government would also return the UK to the forefront of climate action, re-establishing the pathway to Net Zero and giving certainty for business to plan and implement transition plans.

In addition, the circular economy will be developed and implemented across the UK to move to more sustainable business models.

Although the Labour manifesto has limited spending commitments, their plans for developing policy will mean a significant change to supporting green economic growth, rather than leaving it to the free market.  This change from a free market led policy landscape to a more progressive one could bring big advantages to business and the UK environment. For example, R&D investment schemes will be changed to favour long-term projects. Policy will support innovation, biodiversity, and decarbonisation of the housing stock.

For individual businesses, the move to decarbonise the energy system will reduce electricity prices and reduce business scope 2 emissions.  This will also feed into scope 3 emission reductions across the supply chain.

As always with any government it is up to us to ensure that we hold any new Labour government to its promises and ensure they are delivered.

Full details of labour’s plans are given here Change – The Labour Party

What If the Conservatives stage a big recovery in the polls?

It is possible that the Conservatives could stage a big recovery in the next 7 days.  It happened in 1992 and should not be ruled out as a possibility.

 

A Conservative Government would commit to energy security and to decarbonise the energy system by 2035. This would be achieved by:

  • Tripling offshore wind capacity
  • Issuing new North Sea oil and gas licences on an annual basis
  • Building new gas fired power stations
  • Building a new nuclear power station in Wales
  • Approving and deploying two rounds of modular nuclear reactors.

A Conservative Government would commit to achieve Net Zero by 2050 but they state clearly that they want to achieve this in a new pragmatic, proportional and realistic way. They state they will achieve this by:

  • Changing the remit of the Climate Change Committee.
  • Removing green levies
  • Ensuring domestic consent for onshore wind.
  • Forcing petrol retailers to display live pump price information.

There is no direct support for improving business sustainability listed in their plans.  However, they do promise to invest £1.1 billion over the next 5 years in the Green Accelerator Fund and create 100,000 new apprenticeships. 

Biodiversity will be improved by the establishing a new national park.

Full details on Conservative plans are given here Conservative-Manifesto-GE2024.pdf (conservatives.com)

Overall, it seems that there will be little change to the current Government’s support for business, but the new remit of the Climate Change Committee could change the pathway they recommend for the transition to Net Zero.

The future for sustainability policy

The two likely post-election outcomes for the future of the sustainability policy agenda in the UK could not be more different.

Will we be looking at a supportive and innovative policy environment or will it be more of the same?

We will know for sure which path we are on when we wake up on the morning of July 5th

If you have enjoyed this article, you can find other articles on sustainable development and green skills at www.paulbeers.co.uk  and www.paulbeersacademy.co.uk

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. This will ensure you are notified about future posts.

Paul Beers

27th June 2024

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