According to new policy documents published by both parties, the Conservatives would introduce targeted incentives and tradable emissions permits as a system for protecting air quality, whilst the Liberal Democrats would gradually phase in a carbon tax more precisely targeted at greenhouse gas emissions. The Lib-Dems would also introduce an emissions trading scheme, as well as shifting taxation away from wealth creation towards pollution.

The Conservatives intend to streamline the planning process in rundown areas and make brownfield development easier, encouraging a substantial shift towards such development.

Meanwhile, the Lib-Dems say that they would increase investment in national habitat restoration to provide areas for recreation with positive health benefits and to promote biodiversity. They also intend to increase marine and terrestrial conservation schemes, and to create ‘green jobs’ through the encouragement of schemes such as organic farming and woodland management.

The Liberal Democrats also say that they would cut fuel bills and pollution through improved water and energy efficiency in homes, as well as aiming for a minimum of 10% of the UK’s energy to be generated from UK-based renewable energy sources. Under the Lib-Dems there would also be an expanded inspectorate for the Environment Agency, and responsibility for water by the Department of the Environment, with a new separate department for local government and the regions.

According to the Conservative Party, their transport policy will mean freedom for people and goods to travel safely, without harming the environment. If elected, the party pledges that it will promote technology rather than taxation to reduce pollution, target the road-building programme to reduce congestion, and introduce lane rental for street work contractors. Alternatives to the car would be improved by co-operation between public transport schemes, and a new clause on rail franchises that will insist on minimum standards of reliability, cleanliness and punctuality, say the Conservatives.

The Liberal Democrats intend to promote high air quality to reduce illnesses such as asthma by encouraging greater use of less polluting vehicles and increasing the use of public transport.

Though welcoming the Conservative’s waste management policies, environmentalists were sharply critical of their transport policy.

“We are disappointed but not surprised,” said Tony Juniper, Campaigns and Policy Director at Friends of the Earth. “In the early 1990’s, they presided over large scale road building, increasing traffic levels and deteriorating public transport. They didn’t have the policies we needed then, and they don’t have them now. The route out of our transport crisis is not through road building, but cutting traffic levels.”

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie