Labour manifesto: Renewables revolution, air quality crackdown and SDG push

The official Labour Party manifesto has been broadly praised by green groups for including a raft of bold pledges to ramp up renewable energy generation, tackle air quality and embed the Sustainable Development Goals into central government.

“Investing in our environment is investing in our future,” the Labour Party states within the environment section of the 128-page manifesto document, released today (16 May) alongside an eight-page funding document

The manifesto, which is titled “for the many, not the few”, is being lauded as one of the most ambitious political declarations ever released by a major political party, broadly championing a move to a low-carbon economy, which Labour says can secure crucial shares of global export markets.

Environmental groups and green businesses have welcomed the fact that many of  the ambitious proposals set out in last week’s leaked Labour manifesto are included in this official document, although some commitments have been watered down or removed.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Dave Timms says the manifesto “offers a compelling and practical vision for a sustainable energy system which bans fracking, keeps our homes warm and powers them with clean electricity”.

Sustainable energy for all

The UK’s energy system is “outdated, expensive and polluting”, Labour states. The Party will put the country “back on track” to meet the targets in the Climate Change Act and the Paris Agreement. “We will transform our energy systems, investing in new, stateof-the-art, low-carbon gas and renewable electricity production,” the manifesto reads.

Specifically, Labour says it will regain control of energy supply networks through the alteration of operator license conditions, and transition to a publicly owned, decentralised energy system. The Party will also support the creation of publicly owned, locally accountable energy companies and co-operatives to rival existing private energy suppliers, with at least one if every region.

In terms of the energy supply mix, one of the Party’s first missions will be to ensure that 60% of the UK’s energy comes from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030 – this would be a significant increase the national share of renewable energy from approximately 24% in 2016.

The manifesto goes on to state that Labour is committed to renewable energy projects, including tidal lagoons, which the Party says can help create manufacturing and energy jobs as well as contributing to climate change commitments. Emerging technologies such as carbon capture and storage will also help to “smooth the transition to cleaner fuels” and to “protect existing jobs as part of the future energy mix”, the document states, whilst nuclear energy “will continue to be part of the energy supply”.

And in terms of energy finance, one of the flagship policies outlined in the manifesto document is for a Labour Government to establish a National Investment Bank, which will draw upon public and private capital to deliver the UK’s renewable energy needs.

Zero-carbon homes

Last week’s leaked manifesto stated that a Labour Government would “legislate to enforce the highest modern standards for zero-carbon buildings that generate as much energy on-site as they use in heating, hot water and lighting”. This wording has been removed from today’s official document, with the Party now stating: “We will consult on new modern standards for building zero-carbon homes.”

Elsewhere in the manifesto, the Party says it will insulate four million homes as an “infrastructure priority”, to help those who suffer in cold homes each winter. “This will cut emissions, improve health, save on bills, and reduce fuel poverty and winter deaths,” Labour says.

Clean Air Act 

Labour will introduce a new Clean Air Act “to deal with the Conservatives legacy of illegal air quality”, the manifesto states. 

The document also claims that a Labour Government would consult on establishing an environmental tribunal with simplified procedures, “to hear challenges to unlawful government decisions, like those made on the air quality strategy, without engaging in prohibitively expensive processes”.

Fracking ban

As noted in the leaked manifesto document, Labour has said it will ban fracking, “because it would lock us into an energy infrastructure based on fossil fuels, long after the point in 2030 when the Committee on Climate Change says gas in the UK must sharply decline”.

Sustainable Development Goals 

Labour says it “fully supports” the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed globally to eradicate poverty and protect the environment.

If elected, the Party says it will develop a cross-government strategy for ensuring the SDGs are implemented, and report annually to Parliament on its performance.

“In the wake of Brexit, to fulfil our national obligations under the SDGs, Labour will guarantee the least developed countries continued access to the market to protect vital export revenues,” the manifesto document adds. 

Low-carbon vehicles

“Labour will position the UK at the forefront of the development, manufacture and use of ultra-low emission vehicles,” the document reads, with Labour pledging to support the creation of clean modes of transport through investment in low-emission vehicles.

The Party has also pledged to retrofit thousands of diesel buses in areas with the most severe air quality problems to Euro 6 emissions standards.

Biodiversity and flooding

The Party says it will work with farmers and foresters to plant a million trees of native species to promote biodiversity and better flood management. “Unlike the Conservatives who attempted to privatise our forests, Labour will keep them in public hands,” the document states. 

Circular economy

Labour’s manifesto contains relatively little on waste and recycling efforts, which has reached a crisis point in England with recycling rates slowing and the quantity of rejected recyclable waste increasing. 

The only mention of waste and recycling in today’s document refers to plastic bottles, with Labour stating: “We will set guiding targets for plastic bottle deposit schemes, working with food manufacturers and retailers to reduce waste”.

Water industry nationalisation

As edie’s sister title Utility Week reported this morning, Labour has plans for the water industry, which was sold off by the Government of Margaret Thatcher in 1989, to return to public hands. If elected on 8 June, Labour would “replace our dysfunctional water system with a network of regional publicly-owned water companies”. 

“Many basic goods and services have been taken out of democratic control through privatisation,” the document states. “This has often led to higher prices and poorer quality, as prices are raised to pay out dividends. For example, water bills have increased 40% since privatisation.

“Across the world, countries are taking public utilities back into public ownership. Labour will learn from these experiences and bring key utilities back into public ownership to deliver lower prices, more accountability and a more sustainable economy.”

Heathrow expansion

With Heathrow Airport’s expansion being widely condemned by green groups for its potential negative impact on air quality and emissions, Labour has said it recognises the need for additional airport capacity in the south east.

“We welcome the work done by the Airports Commission, and we will guarantee that any airport expansion adheres to our tests that require noise issues to be addressed, air quality to be protected, the UK’s climate change obligations met and growth across the country supported,” the manifesto states.

Labour is the first of the major parties to publish its manifesto ahead of the general election on 8 June. Stay tuned to edie for full coverage off the other party manifestos along with our own, exclusive green policy coverage later this month. 

Luke Nicholls

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