Election 2015: Tories win majority, Greens retain seat

David Cameron will govern for all of the UK by winning a majority in the UK General Election, much to the surprise and disappointment of many green groups and renewable energy developers.

In a shock result, the Conservative Party is predicted to take 331 seats – just enough to form a majority in the Commons. A “difficult and disappointing night” for Ed Miliband saw his Labour Party all but wiped out by the SNP in Scotland, while the Lib Dems effectively collapsed, with just eight MPs remaining in Parliament.

Meanwhile, the Green Party is celebrating as Caroline Lucas will remain as MP for Brighton Pavillion, with a 10% increase in constituency votes compared with 2010.

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Among the MPs that will remain in Parliament, Climate Change Minister Amber Rudd (Tories) held her seat in Hastings and Rye, and Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary Caroline Flint (Labour) kept her seat in Don Valley. 

With the Lib Dems facing such a huge loss, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey and Environment Minister Dan Rogerson were amongst an array of big names to lose their seats. Shadow Energy Minister Tom Greatrex (Labour) was among Labour’s casualties in Scotland, losing his seat of Rutherglen and Hamilton West to the SNP.

For the Green Party – which touted the most ambitious green policies in its manifesto – Leader Natalie Bennett failed to win her seat in Holborn and St Pancras, and the party failed to win in two other key target seats – finishing second in Bristol West and third in Norwich South. 

But Lucas, who increased her share of the vote in Brighton, believes the Green Party has had the “most successful election campaign ever, with almost a million people voting Green”.

‘Double standards’ 

Speaking as he was returned as MP for Whitney, Prime Minister Cameron pledged to complete the Conservatives’ economic plan, which includes cutting emissions “as cost-effectively as possible” and “halting” the development of new onshore wind farms.

I want to bring our country together, our United Kingdom together, not least by implementing as fast as we can the devolution that we rightly promised and came together with other parties to agree both for Wales and for Scotland,” Cameron said. 

The Conservatives are not very popular for their stance on energy and the environment: a recent poll of edie readers discovered that just 2% of sustainability professionals believe the Tories to have the best green policies.

The Tory manifesto document was slammed by green groups as being “anti-green growth” and “a recipe for higher energy bills”. Cameron reiterated that his party has stayed true to its promise to be the ‘greenest government ever’ – a claim that was laughed off by sustainability professionals and green energy developers alike. 

“The Tories’ double standards and ideological bias are embarrassingly obvious,” said Greenpeace UK chief scientist Dr Doug Parr. “They’ll champion localism when it comes to wind farms, but they’ll run roughshod over local people’s concerns when it’s about fracking.”

Onshore wind

Renewable energy developers will also be disappointed by the election result. The Tories plan to effectively bring an end to the development of new onshore wind farms in the UK, with the manifesto stating: “Onshore wind farms often fail to win public support, and are unable by themselves to provide the firm capacity that a stable energy system requires.”

After this election result, RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery said: “We urge the new administration to confirm the importance of onshore wind as an essential part of our electricity mix, as it is one of the most cost effective ways to generate electricity, and is consistently supported by two-thirds of the public.

“As long as we can continue on our current course, onshore wind will be the cheapest of all power sources by 2020, so it makes sense to support it.”

Speculation about how serious the Tories are when it comes to energy and climate change will continue to mount, with all eyes on the next carbon budget and the UK’s stance going into the UN climate summit in Paris later this year.

But with the Conservatives now set to press ahead with the controversial in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, the UK’s green policies could be further complicated with issues such as removing the UK from the EU’s emissions trading scheme, whch could lead to the roll back of a host of environmental regulations. Watch this space.

Luke Nicholls

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