Greens take on the private car, and Plaid Cymru integrates sustainable development, while a number of parties fail to mention the environment
Having tackled the Liberal Democrats (see related story), Conservatives (see related story) and Labour party (see related story), in the final week before the 2001 general election, edie looks at what other political parties are offering in the way of environmental policies.
The Green party
In what appears to be the most environmentally revolutionary party manifesto of the election, the Green party promises to tackle public and private transport issues head on, and restructure the tax system, but, perhaps surprisingly, would cut greenhouse gases by only 20% on 1990 levels, less than both the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.
The party proposes replacing VAT with an ‘eco-tax’ which would reflect the effect that the product has had on the environment, and would abolish car tax, transferring the cost to petrol tax. Road and parking charges would be introduced, with the funds raised being spent on public transport. There would also be a new tax on aviation fuel, with the expansion of existing airports halted, but Railtrack would be re-nationalised, with rural branch lines re-opened.
At the corporate level, the directors of large companies would be required to publish annual reports on the social and environmental impacts of their company’s activities, including an inventory of resource use and emissions. Cuts in emissions would also be achieved by ensuring that 25% of energy is produced by renewable generators by 2010, and by cutting energy demand to a level which could realistically be met by renewables.
The Green party also intends to introduce an organic targets bill, in order to achieve 30% organic production by 2010, and a 50% reduction in the use of pesticides by 2005. Agricultural subsidies would be redirected to boost organic research and to help farmers convert their land to organic cultivation.
Other political parties who have outlined substantial environmental policies in their manifestos include Plaid Cymru, for whom, they say, nothing is more important than the protection of the environment, and who would like to see environmental protection integrated into all areas of policy rather than being seen as a separate subject.
The party promises to reduce Wales’ dependence on fossil fuels, and press for very substantial growth in renewable energy, with the promotion of the whole range of technologies. However, the manifesto states that wind power and energy crops are currently the most promising economically. Adequate resources for research into and the development of alternative transport fuels, and to harness the power of wave and tide, are also essential, says Plaid Cymru, as part of a programme of energy efficiency in the home and in business.
With regard to waste, the first lesson to learn is not to see it as ripe for disposal but rather as a valuable raw material, says Plaid Cymru, although the party does not specify a particular level of recycling which it would like to achieve. Recycling is also seen as a very important opportunity to create new and sustainable jobs and to raise the level of skills in the potential workforce. Incineration should only be allowed if it can be shown that it causes no damage to health, says the party.
Investment would be provided for integrated transport, with priority being given to safety and environmental considerations, with an emphasis on social inclusion, making reasonable public transport available to all. The party would also like to see good communication developed with the rest of Britain and Europe, as well as within Wales, with interchange possible between different modes of transport, including bicycles and walking. Plaid Cymru agrees with the Green party regarding future re-nationalisation of the railways, stating that, ultimately, this would cost far less to the taxpayer than the present approach which is aimed purely at maximising profits for shareholders.
Water conservation and treatment are of concern to the Welsh nationalists, who desire to see the continuation of the very highest standards in sewage treatment, as in Welsh Water’s Green Seas initiative, and to prevent the transfer of water to England unless Wales’ own needs are first met, and then only under favourable terms.
Rural issues include the continuation of sustainable forestry, with the emphasis shifted from coniferous forestry to broad-leaved woodland with its greater potential in terms of increasing biodiversity.
The UK Independence Party
The UK Independence Party has announced that it too supports an integrated transport system with easy transitions between cars, buses or trains, and in which cycling and walking are also encouraged, and in order to produce the best possible system, the party would look for lessons to be learned from other countries, such as the Netherlands and Switzerland. The party would also work with the Countryside Alliance and other rural forums in order to tackle the problems of rural transport, in particular for children, the elderly and people on low incomes.
The Independence party prefers free-market solutions to environmental problems rather than state control. However, the party would encourage the development of well-equipped environmental monitoring teams answerable to local authorities, whose primary function would be to detect and, where possible, prevent adverse health effects attributable to environmental pollution. The party would also cut greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging and supporting private initiatives in developing energy production from renewable sources, including biofuels, wave, wind, solar and hydrogen technologies, so that they would eventually provide a substantial but unspecified percentage of the UK’s energy consumption.
The Ulster Unionist party has promised that it will seek to deliver a co-ordinated strategy for Northern Ireland focused on sustainable development, and would also establish an Independent Environmental Protection Agency for Northern Ireland. The party is also keen to see greater protection for the countryside from over-development and more quality open space within towns and cities.