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 April 14, 2010
Election 2010 -- Green manifesto commitments at a glance

 This week saw the release of the three main parties' election manifestos and environmental commitments formed a central component of each. In fact, in many areas the manifestos hammered home the admirable political consensus that has developed around the low-carbon policies, with each party outlining broadly similar plans for a new low-carbon infrastructure bank, green home loans, ambitious renewable energy targets, and increased investment in clean coal technology.

However, there were also crucial differences in the Parties' philosophical approach to delivering a low-carbon economy, and clear dividing lines around some high-profile green policies, nuclear energy, Heathrow expansion and environmental taxes.

BusinessGreen.com wades through the manifestos (so you don't have to) and offers an at-a-glance guide to the three main parties' low-carbon commitments:

Labour's "green recovery"

Philosophy:

"Labour's environmental agenda reflects our values. Only active government can shape markets to prioritise green growth and job creation. Environmental sustainability cannot be left to individuals and businesses acting alone. We believe that people have the right to a healthy environment. That means giving everyone access to the beauty and amenity of natural places; we want to make it easier to live in a sustainable way whatever your standard of living."

Politics:

While all the main parties share many green policy proposals, Labour's manifesto accuses the Tories of adopting an approach to the environment that is "all about image".

The manifesto explicitly argues that Conservative reluctance to support renewable energy projects, proposals to reverse planning reforms, and opposition to the government's interventionist industrial policy would "put Labour's low-carbon revolution in jeopardy".

It argues that only an interventionist government can drive the development of low-carbon industries, but also positions Labour as pragmatic environmentalists who are still willing to support the expansion of Heathrow airport.

Policies:

  • Achieve about 40 per cent low-carbon electricity by 2020 and create 400,000 new green jobs by 2015.
  • Introduce "pay as you save" green home makeover scheme and require landlords to insulate rented homes.
  • Move towards a "zero waste" Britain, banning recyclable and biodegradable materials from landfill.
  • Push for strong and binding international climate change treaty, and lobby EU to raise emission reduction target for 2020 to 30 per cent below 1990 levels.
  • From 2013 provide climate assistance for developing countries that is additional to commitment to provide 0.7 per cent of UK national income in overseas aid.
  • Develop new high-speed rail network.
  • Roll out smart grid and smart meters for all homes.
  • Ensure 15 per cent of UK energy comes from renewables by 2020.
  • Make decision on Severn tidal barrage plans early in next parliament.
  • Roll out new fleet of nuclear reactors.
  • Develop at least four CCS demonstration plants.
  • Ban unabated coal-fired power plants.
  • Promote community-scale renewable energy and district heat schemes by making it easier for community organisations, co-ops and social enterprises to provide energy services.
  • Introduce "recycle on the go" schemes.
  • Link together new protected areas of habitat; maintain the Green Belt; increase forest and woodland areas.
  • Continue to push for reform of common agricultural policy and appoint supermarket ombudsman to protect interests of suppliers.

Conservatives: "vote blue, go green"

Philosophy:

"This is a Conservative vision for our future, and it is based on Conservative values. We believe that it is our responsibility to create a clean and healthy environment to pass on to our children. That is why we have put green issues back at the heart of our politics and that is why they will be at the heart of our government.

"Instead of using rules and regulations to impose a centralised worldview, we will go with the grain of human nature, creating new incentives and market signals which reward people for doing the right thing. Instead of pulling bureaucratic levers from above telling people what they can't do, we will provide people with the information they need to make more responsible choices. Instead of holding businesses back by imposing unfair retrospective stealth taxes, we will unleash the power of green enterprise and promote resource efficiency to generate thousands of green jobs. This is how we will live up to our responsibility to be the greenest government in our history."

Politics:

The Conservative manifesto returns Labour's criticism that it is only focused on green rhetoric, accusing the previous government of "stark" failures in its attempts to tackle climate change.

It highlights the UK's poor performance in Europe's renewable energy league table and the fact that it has taken a recession to deliver deep cuts in carbon emissions.

It also argues that "a succession of 11 energy ministers and eight secretaries of state with responsibility for energy has left our policy muddled and put our energy security at risk".

Finally, the Conservatives attempt to draw some dividing lines of their own by committing to blocking the proposed expansion of Heathrow and making a pledge to raise green taxes as a proportion of overall Treasury revenue.

Despite the ideological commitment to incentives and individual responsibility, there are also a sizeable number of policy proposals that would require government intervention to drive low-carbon investment.

Policies:

  • Support existing targets for renewable energy and emission reduction, and sign central government up to 10:10 campaign.
  • Increase the proportion of tax revenue accounted for by environmental taxes, while ensuring that any additional revenue from new green taxes is used to reduce the burden of taxation elsewhere.
  • Introduce an Emissions Performance Standard to limit the levels of greenhouse gases from power stations, potentially banning unabated coal plants.
  • Support rollout of new nuclear plants – provided they receive no public
    subsidy.
  • Create four carbon capture and storage demonstration projects.
  • Deliver an offshore electricity grid to support offshore wind farms and create at least two dedicated Marine Energy Parks.
  • Launch a green infrastructure bank and green saving scheme.
  • Give local authorities the power to establish new district heating networks which use biogas and other low-carbon fuels.
  • Allow communities that host renewable energy projects such as wind farms to keep the additional business rates they generate for six years.
  • Block proposed third runway at Heathrow and build high-speed rail link from the airport to London and the Midlands.
  • Reform air passenger duty to better provide incentives for operators to run fuller planes.
  • Launch "Green Deal" scheme, offering every home up to £6,500-worth of energy efficiency measures that will be paid back through energy bill savings.
  • Improve energy efficiency of appliances by adopting scheme similar to Japan's "top runner" initiative, which bans the least efficient devices.
  • Retain Energy Performance Certificates to help people improve the environmental rating of their property.
  • Ensure labelling of GM foods and block any commercial planting of GM crops until and unless it has been assessed as safe for people and the environment.
  • Support reform of Common Agricultural Policy.
  • Introduce a voluntary Responsibility Deal with producers of waste, urging them to cut back on waste levels, and roll out incentive schemes to encourage this to happen.
  • Ditch pay-as-you-throw proposals, but put a floor under the standard rate of
    landfill tax until 2020 to encourage alternative forms of waste disposal.
  • Work internationally for strong and binding climate change agreement.

Liberal Democrats: "A green future"

Philosophy:

"Liberal Democrats believe that protecting the environment is one of the greatest challenges this generation faces. We must hand on to our children a planet worth living on. That requires action across government – this is everybody's responsibility, not just one climate change minister's. It is because we believe concern for the environment is important in every part of people's lives that we have identified policies in every chapter of this manifesto to protect the planet."

Politics:

The Lib Dems have taken a visibly different approach to environmental policy by weaving it through every chapter of the manifesto – a tactic that has already secured plaudits from a number of green groups.

The main political dividing line is the decision to ditch the planned rollout of new nuclear reactors on the grounds that they are likely to prove more expensive than renewables and energy efficiency measures. However, it could be argued that plans for a green stimulus package are more detailed and ambitious than the low-carbon strategies presented by the other main parties.

Policies:

  • Launch one-year job creation and green economic stimulus package funded through £3.1bn of public spending. Aim to create 100,000 green jobs.
  • Set up UK infrastructure bank to invest in low-carbon projects. Allow individuals to save with the new bank.
  • Invest £400m in upgrading shipyards to support offshore wind and marine energy industry.
  • Launch one-year scrappage scheme offering households £400 when they install double glazing, replace an old boiler or install microgeneration technology.
  • Launch green home loan scheme and target loans and grants to renovate 250,000 unoccupied homes.
  • Increase investment in school energy efficiency.
  • Invest £140m in local council bus scrappage scheme, accelerating rollout of low-carbon buses.
  • Reject a new generation of nuclear power stations "based on the evidence nuclear is a far more expensive way of reducing carbon emissions than promoting energy conservation and renewable energy".
  • Block new unabated coal-fired power stations.
  • Set target to generate 40 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2020, raising to 100 per cent by 2050.
  • Strengthen Carbon Reduction Commitment scheme and require all businesses and government departments to report on carbon emissions.
  • Sign up government to 10:10 campaign.
  • Replace per-passenger air passenger duty with a per-plane duty (PPD), ensuring that air freight is taxed for the first time, and introduce higher rate of PPD on domestic flights where alternative forms of travel are available.
  • Oppose expansion of Heathrow and support major overhaul of railway network with addition of new lines and new rules to help cut fares.
  • Work internationally for strong and binding climate change agreement.
  • Work with EU to set a target to make all cars zero emission by 2040.
  • Set clear zero-waste targets, aiming to end waste being sent to landfill.
  • Hold an immediate Strategic Security and Defence Review (SSDR), including non-military challenges such as climate change.