What do we think - the Conservative party manifesto

Posted by Rosie Rogers — 19 May 2017 at 11:32am - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace

By Rebecca Newsom and Rosie Rogers

Yesterday, the Conservative Party launched their manifesto for the General Election on 8th June. Here is Greenpeace’s analysis of the good, the bad and the missing aspects of the manifesto in relation to the issues that are important to us and everyone who cares about a green and peaceful world. Please check our website for further analysis of other Party manifestos as they come out.

The good:

International climate leadership: It’s great to see that climate leadership is mentioned several times throughout the manifesto, including in the Global Britain chapter: “we are at the forefront of action against global climate change.” We are also pleased that the Party aims to lead the world in environmental protections. The manifesto also mentions the previous Conservative Government’s decision to ratify the Paris Agreement.

Energy: The Conservatives have promised to maintain the UK’s global leadership in offshore wind, and have left the door open for further development of onshore wind in Scotland. This is a progression from the 2015 manifesto, which explicitly committed to clamp down on onshore wind. This is very positive - since onshore wind is now the cheapest form of power, and offshore wind prices are falling dramatically. It is notable that nuclear power is not mentioned once in the manifesto - a telling sign that the Party is starting to recognise the enormous financial and technical risks of the industry. The Party appears to be gearing up for a renewable transformation of the energy system, committing to “spend more on research and development” of battery storage, and promoting the smart grid. We’re pleased that the 2015 promise to upgrade all fuel-poor homes is reiterated in there too.

Oceans: Thankfully for our oceans, the manifesto states the Party will “champion greater conservation co-operation within international bodies, protecting rare species, the polar regions and international waters” as well as to uphold their 2015 manifesto commitment to create a Blue Belt of marine protection for Britain’s overseas territories and its own coast. This sends a strong signal for governments across the world that international cooperation on oceans protection is a priority for the Conservatives.

Sustainable transport: We welcome the commitment to “lead the world in electric vehicle technology and use.”

Oil: Positively, the manifesto states the Conservatives would “support the development of a world-leading decommissioning industry” in terms of oil, which sends a clear message to businesses and shareholders about the future wind down of the industry (hopefully).

Nature: the manifesto gives a few promising nods to protecting our natural environment and biodiversity, such as continuing to keep public forests and woodlands in public ownership, planting 1 million more trees, “improving the quality of water courses to protect against soil erosion and damage to vulnerable habitats,” and taking further action to improve animal welfare.

The bad:

Strengthened support for fracking:
Unlike Labour, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats, who have policies to ban fracking, Theresa May’s party has decided to double down on this industry. Planning permission would no longer be required for exploratory wells or other oil & gas drilling - stripping local councils of their power to decide, despite growing public resistance across the UK. This policy also pays no regard to our vital climate change commitments - as a brand new fossil fuel industry would only lock us into more carbon emissions for years to come

No mention of the carbon plan: while the manifesto mentions the UK’s 2050 carbon reduction target, it does not mention the carbon plan, which should set out exactly how we are supposed to deliver CO2 reductions over the next 10-15 years and keep us in track with our legally binding climate commitments. Given the renewed push on shale gas, this could mean the Conservatives intend to de-prioritise UK emission reductions - which would call into question their true climate leadership.

Renewed commitment to Heathrow expansion: As you may know, Greenpeace supports no new runways. Expansion anywhere is incompatible with our climate change commitments. Expansion at Heathrow would also cause major air and noise pollution issues.Continue to promote North Sea oil and gas: of course we need a transition from oil and gas to sustainable energy, but this policy jars with the commitment to expanding onshore and offshore wind above, and the threat of climate change means there’s only so much fossil fuel we can exploit. The commitment to expand decommissioning however, is a sign that much of this industry has limited time left.

Retain the Trident weapon system: Greenpeace does not believe nuclear weapons are compatible with a green and peaceful world. There are 196 countries in this world and only 8 have nuclear weapons. We promised the international community we would negotiate ours away. It’s a promise we need to keep. See here for more info. 

The missing:

There is a real lack of vision when it comes to fisheries. Although it is positive to see the Conservative Party is committed to working with relevant stakeholders “to introduce a new regime for commercial fishing that will preserve and increase fish stocks and help to ensure prosperity for a new generation of fishermen”, there is no detail whatsoever on how they intend to do this.  Withdrawing from the London Convention is only worth the hostile message it sends to our neighbours if it is coupled with a commitment to the development of a world-leading fisheries policy that goes far beyond the Common Fisheries Policy in its efforts to preserve and rebuild fish stocks and the local, sustainable fishing communities that depend on them.Plastic pollution and recycling:

Ocean plastic: the devil will be in the detail. That there is a commitment to tackling litter through supporting comprehensive recycling and better packaging is a good sign, but we will wait to see whether the commitment matches up to the scale of the fast emerging problem of plastics in the ocean.  A good first start would be a commitment to a nationwide bottle deposit return scheme.

Air pollution:
This was a glaring omission from the manifesto - apart from a fleeting comment that the Conservatives “will take action against poor air quality in urban areas.” After publishing a toothless national air quality plan, Theresa May’s Party has just missed another opportunity to show her government would be serious about tackling a major public health emergency that's harming our health and that of our children. This would mean focusing on the root of the problem: polluting diesel cars and other vehicles.

A real plan for nature: despite the positive words about protecting nature above, the Conservative manifesto lacks real detail on what this actually means in practice. How can a Party so adamantly committed to leave the environment in a better state than they inherited it be so lacklustre in their vision for nature? The upcoming 25 Year Environment Plan had better be more convincing than anything on the topic in this manifesto - but sadly its delays so far have already undermined confidence in its ability to deliver. Furthermore, the manifesto contains some worrying language around the burden and costs of regulation, and a commitment to a ‘red tape challenge’ - which could open the door to a bonfire of some vital environmental protections. 

Overall, it’s great to see climate leadership recognised in this manifesto, alongside an appreciation of the enormous economic and environmental opportunities of the growing renewables and electric vehicles sectors. However, the Conservatives’ renewed commitment to fracking, alongside the absence of any substantial plans on air pollution, sustainable fishing, plastic pollution and nature protections, significantly undermines their environmental credentials. There is plenty of room for improvement. Stay tuned for a wrap-up blog next week looking at other parties’ manifestos.

About Rosie Rogers

I'm Rosie and I am a Senior Political Advisor at Greenpeace UK. 

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