Environment sidelined as election race begins

The general election race has now officially started and the date for going to the polls announced, to nobody's surprise, as May 5th.

Each of the main parties has produced a list of the areas they feel will invigorate an increasingly apathetic electorate and, despite the growing awareness and concern over environmental issues, and the numerous national headlines that climate change and global warming have produced, not one of them has seen fit to make this a key election battleground.

Of the seven policy areas highlighted by the Conservatives, the six pledges made by Labour and the 'Ten Reasons to vote Liberal Democrat', only one mentions the environment at all. The Liberal Democrats put a commitment to 'cleaner transport and cleaner energy' at number five on their list.

Indeed, Norman Baker MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Secretary has said that his party is so committed to this cause that their entire general election campaign will be carbon neutral and he challenged the other main parties to do the same.

"On the environment there have been many fine words from Labour, but they have failed to deliver. Labour still just don't get the environment. The Conservatives would be a disaster as they simply don't believe it's actually important enough to care about," he said.

Despite keeping them well buried, the main parties do have some policies on the environment. Here, edie news, with information compiled by ukendata.com, offer you the chance to compare what's on offer from the three main parties.

As a disclaimer, we must say that the views expressed are based on promises, policies, and quotes made by politicians. They are, therefore, subject to change and will not necessarily be implemented. We cannot be held accountable for broken promises, backtracking and climbdowns in the face of industry opposition or slow hand-claps from the WI.

The policies are as follows:


Energy/Climate change

  • Climate Change - "single most important environmental issue of all". Michael Howard in speech to Green Alliance/ERM Forum, September 2004.
  • Will phase out use of hydrofluorocarbons, which account for 2% of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions, 2008-2014.
  • Support European emissions trading scheme.
  • Will change planning guidance on onshore wind farms to give local communities more influence and intends to reform Renewables Obligation to encourage more offshore wind plants, biomass, tidal, wave and solar energy. EU's CAP could be reformed to encourage production of biofuels.
  • Will focus on home energy efficiency and give consideration to varying rates of duty. Energy efficient homes could benefit from a reduction in stamp duty. Consideration will be given to simplifying the Building Regulations on energy efficiency and perhaps replacing them with one simple thermal target.
  • Will facilitate microgeneration and give more prominence to Combined Heat and Power.
  • Will support CO2 emission reduction targets for 2010, 2020 and 2050.
  • Will work towards achievement of zero emissions on new build. (Tim Yeo speech, March 2005).
  • Action Plan on Climate Change will turn the Energy Efficiency Commitment into a market-based mechanism involving a wider range of commercial organisations in the provision of energy efficiency products. Energy companies would be required to purchase tradeable credits issued for energy efficiency work undertaken.
  • The long- term aim is to abolish the Climate Change Levy and replace it with an increased EEC covering commercial and residential sectors.
  • (Tim Yeo, speech to Council for Sustainable Energy, March 2005).


  • Favours use of the tax system to address transport emissions and will require government cars to be the most fuel efficient, or best alternative fuel car, available.
  • Will work to reach faster conclusions on the feasibility of including aviation in the EU emissions trading scheme. Would use its "best endeavours" to ensure that the aviation sector was included in emissions trading before further airport runway expansion in the south east takes place.
  • The best train operators will be awarded longer contracts. The development potential around railway stations will be unlocked.


  • Conservatives would ban commercial planting of GM crops. (March 2005). Reforms to food labelling will be introduced.
  • Fly-tipping will be made an arrestable offence.
  • Will end the "top down" approach to planning. Will abolish Communities Plan.
  • Will be a "much stronger" presumption against development in the green belt. Will encourage brownfield development and introduce more flexible planning guidance on use of farm buildings.
  • (Yeo, Queen's Speech debate). The James report identifies £894m of annual savings on the DEFRA budget compared to £610m contained in the Gershon review. It says that annual expenditure of £3,216m in 2004-05 has risen from £1,954m in 1998-999, an increase of 65%. James proposes a cut of 1286 Environment Agency staff to be achieved by reducing "bureaucratic intrusiveness" in environmental enforcement in the countryside. English Nature, the Countryside Agency and the Forestry Commission would be rationalised.


    Energy/Climate Change
    (National Policy Forum, Chapter on "Creating Sustainable Communities").

  • Will eliminate fuel poverty in England by 2010. Will have moved towards a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide levels on 1990 levels by 2010. "On track" to reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2050.
  • Will eliminate fuel poverty in England by 2010. Will have moved towards a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide levels on 1990 levels by 2010. "On track" to reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2050.
  • Will start a dialogue with other countries on how to tackle climate change after Kyoto.
  • Aviation emissions to be integrated into European emissions trading scheme.
  • Energy policy to address sustainability, security of supply and safety.
  • Will consider the establishment of a Marine Performance fund which would pay a premium for any unit of electricity generated from wave or tidal power.
  • The option of building new nuclear capacity to be kept open. (p75).
  • Consideration of the introduction of a "white certificate trading scheme for energy efficiency will be considered. The Building Regulations will be updated every five years or so to provide incremental improvements in energy efficiency and will publish a Code for Sustainable Buildings next year following consultation in 2005.


  • Will look at the feasibility of further road pricing schemes and high occupancy vehicle lanes. Will develop school travel plans to discourage the "school run".
  • Transport spending in England will rise to £12.8bn by 2007-08 and will thereafter grow by 2.25% annually in real terms until 2015.


  • At least 25% of household waste to be recycled or composted by 2005-06.
  • Seeking to achieve better integration between economic, social and environmental objectives - the principle of sustainable development.
  • To discourage landfill through the introduction of landfill allowance trading, "enabling good recycling councils to gain financially from penalties paid by the bad ones". (Labour.org.uk).
  • Consideration will be given to introducing a tax on plastic bags.
  • A consultation with industry on a revised definition of waste is due this spring. With the review of the Waste Strategy concluded by the end of the year. (Sustainable Development Strategy).
  • Will continue to take a precautionary approach to GM foods and crops based on sound science and ensuring consumer information and choice.
  • By the end of 2006 will produce a report on Sustainable Production and Consumption. Will use public procurement to stimulate markets for new products and services. A Government/Business workshop will be held later in 2005 to link policy on environmental regulation with innovation.
  • A new Sustainable Consumption and Production Business Task Force will be established.
  • Measures for taking forward a strategy on Integrated Product Policy will be published by the end of 2006.
  • The Government will expect listed companies to account for their approach to sustainability and any environmental risks in their Operating and Financial reviews. Large private companies will be required to report on environmental issues to the extent needed to understand the company's performance, development or position under the Accounts Modernisation Directive.


    "Manifesto for the Environment" published March 2005.
    Energy/Climate Change

  • UK will meet Kyoto targets "well before the deadline". Post Kyoto targets must prioritise inclusion of USA, Australia and the developing countries on the basis of "contraction and convergence".
  • 20% of the UK's energy will come from renewable sources by 2020 and 50% by 2050. There will be no replacement programme for nuclear power plants.
  • International aid will focus on sustainability such as clean water, renewable energy and sustainable agriculture.
  • Local authority development plans will incorporate targets for carbon dioxide reduction to encourage the development of renewables facilities. Building regulations will be amended to improve the environmental quality of new buildings.
  • A target will be set to ensure that 30% of all electricity used in the public sector will come from CHP schemes by 2015.
  • The Climate Change Levy will be replaced with a carbon tax.


  • Vehicle Excise Duty will be reformed to cut tax on cars that pollute less and increase duty on high polluting vehicles. Extensions to congestion charging will be supported.
  • Longer term, VED and petrol duty will be replaced with a national road user charging system based on location, congestion and pollution.
  • Railways will be reformed with fewer but larger, longer-term franchises to encourage investment. More rail freight will be encouraged.
  • Will oppose the construction of new international airports and will work to include aviation in emissions trading. Airport landing charges will be increased and will not be subsidised by airport shops.
  • Major new road building schemes will not be progressed "unless the benefits are clear". Resources switched from road will be invested in public transport. Pensioners and the disabled will be given free off-peak local travel.


  • A long-term goal of zero municipal waste will be set. Within 6 years, 70% of household waste will be recycled. All households will be offered kerbside collections.
  • Manufacturers will be held responsible for disposing of their products.
  • New incinerators for municipal waste will only be allowed if they are the best environmental option after all alternatives such as pyrolysis and anaerobic digestion have been considered.
  • The EU's REACH programme for chemicals is supported, as is the proposed Directive on Corporate Environmental Liability.
  • An Environmental Responsibilty Act will be passed placing an obligation on businesses and government to report.
  • Pollution controls will be enforced through a new Environment Agency inspectorate and an Environmental Court introduced with tougher penalties for polluters.
  • DTI will be abolished and replaced by a new Department of Energy, Environment and Transport. (Norman Baker - Speech to Environmental Industries Commission - March 2005).

    For further information please contact party websites or your local MP.

    By David Hopkins

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