GE17 – What Your Vote Means for The Environment
We need to be clear on the environmental impacts of each party’s policies and the way in which the outcome will affect all inhabitants of both the United Kingdom and the planet as a whole, not just us hairless two-legged ones.
I’d love to hear your opinion on the party environmental policies and any further thoughts you have regarding nature and this election in the comments!
It is no secret that Theresa May is pro-fox hunting and she has stated that she has “always been in favour” of the cruel and barbaric excuse for a sport. The tory manifesto commits to a free vote on the repeal of the Hunting Act 2004. This is the act which bans the chasing of wild animals with dogs and also prevents hare coursing in England and Wales. A repeal of it would be bad news for our wildlife.
The League Against Cruel Sports states that the of the British public, whilst the ban on deer hunting is supported by 88%; hare hunting/coursing by 91%. They also state that the ban faces two threats:
- “Being repealed or weakened by the government. After the election in June this year, there will potentially be enough pro-hunting MPs to overturn the hunting ban in England and Wales for the first time since the came into force
- Hunts continuing to chase and kill animals illegally by using false alibis (trail hunting), abusing exemptions in the law (flushing to guns; the observation and research exemption) and by exploiting poor enforcement of the law.”
Hares were listed in 2011 as potentially facing extinction by 2050. A repeal of the hunting act would only speed up the decline in these beautiful animals. “One third of the hunts (with dogs) in England and Wales target these declining hares, not foxes”.
Labour has promised to uphold the hunting act, protecting our foxes and hares from the bloodlust of those who find pleasure in animal cruelty under the guise of sport.
The Conservatives are in favour of the dangerous practice of fracking. Theresa May has been accused of trying to bribe the public into accepting it. The Conservatives’ manifesto declares that they will “develop the shale industry in Britain and “legislate to change planning law for shale applications”.
It has been accused of “overselling the benefits of fracking” by Sam Hall of think tank Bright Blue, who added that “the impact of fracking on consumer bills is likely to be minimal” and pointed out that “while stringently regulated fracking could meet the UK’s demand for gas for a couple more decades, the Conservatives’ priority should be incentivising cheap renewables, which are attracting the majority of new energy investment worldwide, as part of its modern industrial strategy.” (source)
Labour’s manifesto states that they “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”.
Liberal Democrats’ states they “will oppose ‘fracking’ because of its adverse impact on climate change, the energy mix, and the local environment.”
Green Party manifesto states they “will introduce a ban on fracking”.
UKIP will invest in shale gas exploration.
Paris Climate Change Agreement
Leaders around the world have condemned Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change agreement to cut greenhouse gases.
Jeremy Corbyn has branded the decision “reckless and dangerous”, adding that “The commitments made in Paris are vital to stop the world reaching the point of no return on climate change, and there can be no question of watering them down.”
Meanwhile, Downing Street has issued a statement expressing that Theresa May is “disappointed”, whilst failing to sign a joint statement condemning Trump alongside France, Germany, Italy, and three other European G7 nations. This is unsurprising if we take into account her previous attempts to water down EU climate policy. Personally, I don’t feel her reluctance to stand up to the president doesn’t seem like the actions of a “strong and stable” leader.
The Conservative party manifesto states they above all “believe that energy policy should be focused on outcome rather than the means we reach our objectives”. They then go on to say that “after we have left the European Union we will form their energy policy based not on the way energy is generated but on the ends we desire”.
They also open up the possibility of onshore wind development on Scottish islands, which is an improvement on the 2015 manifesto that explicitly committed clamping down on onshore wind.
The Labour party environment and energy policy states they will “deliver clean, democratically accountable energy, phasing out coal power stations, banning fracking, and aiming for 65% renewable electricity by 2030.”
It’s not only our native wildlife that is threatened by the Conservative manifesto, which has dropped the pledge to ban the trade of ivory that was present in its previous 2015 manifesto.
A 2016 Guardian article commented that “while bans on the international trade in ivory exist, a failure to observe similar measures at a national level is being exploited by criminal gangs who smuggle ivory into the UK, where it can be passed off as antique.”
The Labour Party has pledged to institute a ‘total ban on ivory trading’.
As this election is pretty much a two-horse race between the Conservatives and Labour party, it’s important to consider their environmental policies in greater detail.
You may have already read that the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas has warned that the Conservative manifesto would be “an absolute car crash for the environment” if put into effect. It’s not hard to see why when we take into consideration their stance on the points above.
They state that they have “huge ambitions for our farming industry” and are “determined to grow more, sell more, and export more”, but I can’t help but feel they’ve neglected to take into consideration poor environmental policies will have on the ability to make this happen.
They end their Countryside Communities section with the following statement, which in itself sounds great but contradicts their other environmental policies:
“Finally, we pledge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it. That is why we shall produce a comprehensive 25 Year Environment Plan that will chart how we will improve our environment as we leave the European Union and take control of our environmental legislation again”.
Whilst they do mention being at the “forefront of action against global climate change” and their aim to lead the world in environmental protections, “champion greater conservation co-operation within international bodies, protecting rare species, the polar regions and international waters”, planting more trees, and improving animal welfare, there are some key things missing from their manifesto.
The only comment on air pollution is that they “will take action against poor air quality in urban areas” and whilst they mention a commitment “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 comment on how they intend to do this.
Labour’s environment and energy policy was launched last year. Its main pledges have a key role in the General Election 2017 manifesto, which 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.” (source).
The following information about Labour’s environmental pledges is taken from the Totnes Labour Party website (link):
1. Maintain and extend EU environmental protections, protecting UK farmers and producers from cheap imports produced to lower environmental standards, and ensuring our protections keep pace with the best of the rest of Europe.
2. Lead global action on climate change, honouring the Paris Climate agreement and committing to keep 80% of fossil fuels in the ground globally.
3. Invest in a world class green economy with low-carbon and renewable energy jobs at the heart of a £250bn investment strategy. Taking the National Grid back into public ownership will ensure affordability and sustainability are prioritised over energy company profits.
4. Deliver clean, democratically accountable energy, phasing out coal power stations, banning fracking, and aiming for 65% renewable electricity by 2030. Labour will provide a nationalised energy supplier, and promote the growth of over 200 ‘local energy companies’ and 1,000 community energy co-operatives.
Specific environmental pledges that are new in the manifesto include these:
A new Clean Air Act to deal with the Conservative legacy of illegal air quality.
A safeguard for habitats and species in the ‘blue belts’ of the seas and oceans surrounding our island.
Targets for plastic bottle deposit schemes, working with food manufacturers and retailers to reduce waste.
Protection for our bees by prohibiting neonicotinoids as soon as our EU relationship allows us to do so.
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.
Sadly, the Labour Party do continue to support oil and gas as well as further nuclear projects. However, I personally feel that their overall environmental policy definitely comes out on top.
Please note: I have done my best to gather information from both the party manifestos and a wide range of sources covering key points relating to environmental legislation as a whole. There is every chance that things will have been accidentally left out, but should you see something missing that you feel should be mentioned I welcome you posting it in the comments. I believe discussion is a hugely important part of decision making and I welcome your opinions.