Lib Dems outline vision for net-zero by 2045 in new manifesto

The Party is the first to release its manifesto for next month’s general election in full. Most others are expected to publish manifestos later this week.

The Lib Dems have promised a “fair deal for the environment”, under which nature access should be improved and the low-carbon transition would form the cornerstone of a new industrial strategy. The manifesto stipulates that well-designed green policy can “boost the economy and enhance everyone’s quality of life”.

A new duty of care for the environment and human rights in business operations and supply chains is promised.

And there is a bold pledge to ‘double nature’ by 2050. In practice, this means doubling woodland cover, doubling species abundance, and doubling the size of the Protected Area Network plus other strategically important wildlife habitats.

All of this is underpinned by a pledge to set “meaningful and binding targets” to stop the decline of the UK’s natural environment – as the nation promised in signing the UN’s biodiversity treaty.

The delivery of these targets, the Party has stipulated, will require more public funding. It has promised an uplift in funding for the Environment Agency and Natural England, plus work to strengthen the UK’s Office For Environmental Protection – its post-Brexit regulator.

The Lib Dems have additionally promised to set up a new Air Quality Agency and to replace Ofwat, the water sector regulator, with a “tougher” new alternative. Combatting the sewage scandal has been a key focus for much of the environmental component of the Party’s pre-election campaign.

Net-zero plans

A seven-way TV debate between Party representatives last week saw participants butting heads on net-zero.

The Lib Dems’ manifesto confirms that the Party, if elected, would strive to move the UK’s legally binding net-zero target forward to 2045 and set a 2030 target for 90% of the electricity generation mix to be renewable. It would also reinstate the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car and van sales, set by Boris Johnson and delayed to 2035 by Rishi Sunak.

The manifesto calls climate change “an existential threat” and outlines a vision for a just transition in which “everyone benefits” and “no-one is left behind”.

A Lib Dem Government would appoint a Chief Secretary for Sustainability to the Treasury to better join up work across departments on transitioning to a low-carbon economy. It would also implement a new, modern industrial strategy built around the transition, including plans to “fix the skills and recruitment crisis”.

Public involvement in the transition is a key focus. The Party would establish a series of national and local citizens’ assemblies on climate policy and has also outlined plans to help homes improve energy efficiency, fit low-carbon heating and install rooftop solar.

On energy efficiency, the Lib Dems have promised a ten-year “emergency upgrade” programme which would, in the first instance, cover the full cost of insulation and heat pumps for leaky homes owned or rented by those on low incomes.

The manifesto additionally includes a new national active travel strategy, simplified funding to improve and electrify bus and rail services, and a freeze on rail fares.

Call to action

Also this morning, the leaders of all major UK political parties have received a letter from more than 400 climate experts imploring the adoption of credible science-based environmental policies.

Every signatory has published at least one paper on climate-related issues. More than 200 are serving professors.

The letter argues that unless the UK implements more robust plans to increase its climate adaptation and resilience, and outlines how it will meet its legally binding emissions targets, it “will be shirking its international responsibilities and will be losing the opportunity to promote prosperity and peace in the UK and around the globe”.

It warns: “It is very clear that a failure to tackle climate change with sufficient urgency and scale is making the UK and the rest of the world more dangerous and insecure.

“The UK is experiencing growing damage and harm to lives and livelihoods from climate change impacts, such as increases in the frequency and intensity of many extreme weather events and rising sea levels.”

It also states that climate-related damage is occurring in supply chains for food and other key goods and services imported by the UK, with the nation unable to “completely insulate itself”.

The letter implores all parties to commit to publishing and implementing a “credible and legal strategy” for meeting its long-term net-zero target and interim carbon budget requirements. The incumbent Government’s net-zero strategy has twice been ruled unlawful by the High Court, and official advisors have concluded that policy plans are only in place to deliver 25% of the emissions cuts needed by 2035.

Other policy recommendations detailed in the letter are:

  • Accelerating action across all sectors and regions to enhance climate adaptation and resilience
  • Following the Climate Change Committee’s advice on North Sea Oil and gas, which cautions against developing new capacity
  • Increasing international climate spending from public sources, and working to unlock private funding
  • Abide by the agreement struck at COP28
  • Lead by example on climate at international forums such as COP29

The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment’s policy and communications director, Bob Ward, said the letter sends a “clear message” that greater climate ambition would be both a vote winner at this election, and in the UK’s best interests in the long-term.

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