Green Party manifesto: Renewables revolution critical to curb climate change
"The climate is the ultimate common good," states the Green Party's election manifesto, which pledges to ramp up spending on renewables, prioritise home energy efficiency and put an end the UK's dependency on fossil fuels.
Released today (14 April), the manifesto pledges an £85bn commitment towards £35bn to renewables; £5bn to flood defences and £45bn to building insulations.
Unlike the Labour equivilant, released yesterday, there are far more specific green policies and figures. But while these bold pledges on the environment and climate change are expected, the party does little to dispel accusations that it is a 'one-issue party'.
The NHS and immigration, for example - two of the top three most important issues at this election according to polls - are relegated to page 31 and 71 of the Green Party manifesto respectively.
Here are the key green points: -
The Green Party pledged to "ban fracking immediately" while phasing out nuclear within 10 years, and shutting down all coal power stations within eight years. This fuel will be replaced with clean energy as the Greens pledged to spend £35bn over the next parliament on renewable generation and adapting the national grid.
The current Government spent approximately £7.6bn on low-carbon generation as part of its efforts to become the 'greenest government ever' - a claim which Natalie Bennett recently told edie was a “sick joke”.
Like Labour, the Green Party plans to give the GIB extra borrowing powers to fund these investments, while the focus will be on "expanding mature technologies like wind and solar PV and bringing the costs down". Energy storage would also be expanded under Green Party orders, with a focus on using plug-in vehicles as stage capacity.
The outlook for biomass is less optimistic, as the Green Party manifesto pledges to develop biomass storage "only where it can be done in a sustainable way giving regard to the human and environmental impact of large-scale biomass production."
Following on from the current government's efforts' to decarbonise energy-intensive industry, the Greens would also provide £4.5bn to support R&D into less energy-intensive industrial processes.
Caroline Lucas recently labelled the Government's current household efficiency policy, the Green Deal, an "absolute disaster". The Greens have instead pledged to prioritise energy efficiency, seeking to cut energy demand by a third by 2020, one half by 2030 and two thirds by 2050.
Much of this would be achieved by a £45bn home-improvement plan, offering a £5,000 retrofit grant for houses in fuel poverty; upgrading insulation, and installing solar panels and other energy sources where necessary.
There will be a further option of a subsidised £15,000 loan from the Green Investment Bank (GIB) for any further energy upgrades. The manifesto also pledged to continue a "fully-funded" RHI scheme.
The party also proposes a 'Carbon Quota' system, whereby every adult in the UK is given a carbon account card, with a certain amount of carbon 'units. Carbon units would also be sold businesses. Under the plan, the carbon-thrifty would be able to sell their excess units, incentivising a low-emission lifestyle.
The Greens want to "end the dominance of the Big Six energy companies" by establishing 42GW of community power by 2020. The party also plans to install a progressive system of energy tariffs, whereby small consumers pay less per unit than big consumers.
The Green party plans to work with financial institutions to encourage divestment for fossil-fuels.
There will also be funding to install solar panels on all schools, hospitals and public buildings by 2020 and a £2.5bn commitment to R&D in less developed technologies such as wave and tidal power.
The manifesto also lent partial support to carbon capture, calling it a useful 'transitional technology', in spite of Caroline Lucas recently telling edie the technology would hinder the development of a low-carbon economy.
The party proclaimed the current 80% emissions reduction target by 2050 not fit for purpose, instead targeting a 90% reduction in emissions in the next 15-20 years.
On an international scale, the main foreign policy priority will be the establishment of a major new international deal on climate change at the Paris 2015 conference. This deal would be based on a per-capita limit for countries, with a focus on the 2C warming target.
On adapatation, the party - much like Labour - promised to hand an extra £1bn to local authorities and the Environment Agency to help them deal with floods and heatwaves. The Greens also proposed having the government act as an insurer of last resort, when private insurers refuse to provide flood coverage.
The manifesto proclaims: "We want to move to a jobs-rich circular economy with as much waste minimisation as possible."
The Greens propose a focus on re-use and repair, with recycling as a 'last resort'. The party plans to use taxation and regulation to encourage manufacturers to "design fix-ability in, and design waste out".
The rest of the UK would follow Scotland and ban food waste being sent to landfill., while national spending on recycling by £4bn a year (a 50% increase), with a target of recycling 70% of domestic waste by 2020.
The manifesto pledged to make transport carbon-neutral by 2050 by encouraging walking and cycling, and embracing low-carbon technologies.
Students would be offered free public transport, at a cost of around £4bn a year, while airport expansions would be halted, meaning no new unways at Gatwick and Heathrow.
The Greens also plan to bring the rail network back into public ownership, because "the privatised railway is a blatant transfer of public money to private interests at the expense of taxpayers and passengers," according to Caroline Lucas.
The manifesto said that rail fares have also gone up 22% between 1997 and 2013, while road users experienced a 9% drop - "the exact wrong message". HS2 would be scrapped, with the money instead spent on improving conventional rail links between major cities.
The Environmental Industries Commission welcomed the "ambitious pledges" of the Green Party, but warned that getting the technical details of these policies right would be "challenging."
Sustainability professionals will undoubtedly be impressed at the pledges in the Green Party manifesto, but will it be enough to impress the rest of the electorate and does the party have the technical expertise to back up its bold claims?
Brad Allen & Luke Nicholls