Lib Dem manifesto: Fighting climate change with five green laws
Five Green Laws made up the environmental heart of the Liberal Democrat's election manifesto, launched by Nick Clegg in London earlier today.
The laws are not quite "nailed to the front of the manifesto" as Energy Secretary Ed Davey promised in March, but they do mark the strongest commitment to the green economy issued by any of the three major parties.
The full 158-page manifesto - the longest of all of the major parties - contains bold ambitions on energy efficiency, zero-waste targets and zero-net emissions target by 2050, as well as a pledge to source one third of Britain's energy from renewables.
Here is everything you need to know about the Lib Dem manifesto: -
Five Green Laws
1) A Zero Carbon Britain Act
Key measures include upgrading the Climate Change Act with a legally-binding target for Britain to be carbon-neutral by 2050.
This will be driven by a 2030 power-sector decarbonisation target of 50-100g per kWh. Unnabated coal generation will also stop by 2025, and any new gas stations built after 2030 will be fitted with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology.
The Green Investment Bank will be given full borrowing powers to boost further investment in low carbon technologies (similar to the Labour promise).
2) Resource Efficiency and Zero Waste Britain Act
"The successful economies of the future will be 'circular', says the manifesto, and the Lib Dems are the only major party to make firm commitments on waste, including a statutory target to recycle 70% of waste in England.
The party also plans to use national and EU regulation to "promote design that enhances reparability, reuse and recycling, requiring specified products to be sold with parts and labour guarantees for at least five years".
As promised, the Liberal Democrats have committed to create an inter-departmental unit for resource management, to better coordinate the cross-cutting challenges of green growth, climate change and resource management.
Welcoming this proposed body, Nigel Mattravers of the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) said: "ICE has long proposed the creation of some form of office for resource management within a government department to really drive this forward and coordinate. We are encouraged by the Liberal Democrat's support for this and urge other parties to also explore the idea further."
3) A Green Transport Act
The headline measure is a requirement that every new bus and taxi is Ultra Low Emission from 2030 and every car on the road meets that standard by 2040.
The party also proposes the creation of Low Emission Zones as part of a national air quality plan, including a legal requirement for the most polluted towns and cities.
Environmental Industries Commission director Matthew Farrow said: "We welcome the prominence to which the Liberal Democrats have given environmental concerns in their manifesto. Low Emission Zones are something on which EIC has campaigned for some time and we are pleased to see it formally recognised."
4) A Green Buildings Act
The Lib Dems plan to reform the Green Deal 'pay as you save' scheme into a new Green Homes Loan Scheme, funding renewable heat and electricity alongside energy efficiency.
Alongside this, they propose a statutory target to bring the homes of all fuel-poor households to Band C by 2027. This would be supported by a new 'Feed Out Tariff' for investment in solid wall insulation - "the most expensive and difficult energy saving investment for some homes".
The party also wants to boost community energy efficiency by empowering the Green Investment Bank to develop innovative financial products for whole street or district-wide energy efficiency retrofits.
On the innovation side, the party would introduce new legal framework to require regulators to facilitate the development of deep geothermal heat, large-scale heat pumps, waste industrial heat and energy storage systems.
5) A Nature Act
The party wants to place introduce a new Public Sector Sustainability Duty, requiring steadily higher green criteria in public procurement policy, and placing requirements on public authorities to act in a sustainable manner.
It also plans to bring EU air and water quality targets into UK law and place the Natural Capital Committee on a statutory footing.
The Lib Dems claim that "our reforms have already created the world's first low-carbon electricity market" and say their bold decarbonisation targets will be met "largely by expansion of renewables", with a target of 60% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
Smart grid technology and energy storage will also receive funding boosts to support the increased renewable output.
Unlike the Conservative manifesto, onshore wind will be encouraged in "appropriate locations". The manifesto stated: "We will end ideologically motivated interference in local planning decisions for wind farms by Government Ministers."
The Lib Dems accept that new nuclear power stations "can play a role in building a sustainable economy, provided concerns about safety, disposal of waste and cost are adequately addressed and without public subsidy for new build."
Biomass will be used primarily for heating and small-scale power generation while the party reform of EU policies on biofuels and biomass which help drive deforestation.
On shale, the manifesto states: "Liberal Democrats in government have introduced the world's most robust regulatory regime for unconventional gas, including banning drilling in National Parks, and will take two further steps to ensure any shale gas contributes to a faster transition to a low-carbon economy.
The party promises to establish a low-carbon Transition Fund using 50% of any tax revenues from shale gas to fund energy efficiency, community energy, low-carbon innovation and renewable heat.
Launching the manifesto, Clegg asked voters to let him be a balancing power in Westminster. "The Liberal Democrats will add a heart to a Conservative government and we will add a brain to a Labour one," he said. Maybe they can add a touch more green to the UK economy as well.