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LibDem Manifesto – Environmental Coverage

LibDems have the longest section on the environment. You can click on the title above to go to the page where you can see the Manifesto. There are no costings that accompany this manifesto. The summary below shows quotations from the manifesto (in italics with page numbers reported) and some commentary.  The titles are mostly as they appear in the manifesto, unless statements are grouped.

Brexit and Environment

“Maintaining environmental standards: The European Union has created the highest environmental standards in the world. We have a duty to future generations to protect our environment and tackle climate change. Liberal Democrats will ensure that everything is done to maintain those high standards in UK law, including the closest possible co-operation on climate and energy policy.” P.11

 Investment

We will ensure that the National Infrastructure Commission takes fully into account the environmental implications of all national infrastructure decisions.” P.37

Traditional indicators of economic activity such as GDP are poor guides to genuine prosperity and wellbeing. We will therefore introduce a National Wellbeing Strategy covering all aspects of government policy, including health, housing and the environment.” P.39

Devolved Administrations

  • “Provide assistance to areas heavily dependent on fossil fuel industries, such as the north-east of Scotland, to diversify away from these industries.
  • Give the immediate go-ahead to the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project.” P.44

Keeping Our Country Green

This is the main environment chapter of the manifesto. The priorities are:

  • “Ensuring that four million properties receive insulation retrofits by 2022, prioritising fuel-poor households.
  • Preventing 40,000 deaths a year with our Air Quality Plan to reduce air pollution.
  • Ensuring British farming remains competitive and doesn’t lose out – refocusing support towards producing healthy food and public benefits.” 47

This Section is too long to reproduce here (pages 47 – 54). But as a summary:

Five new green laws are proposed: a Green Transport Act, a Zero-Carbon Britain Act, a Nature Act, a Green Buildings Act, and a Zero-Waste Act to “incorporate existing EU environmental protections, maintain product standards such as for energy efficiency, and establish a framework for continual improvement”. P.47

The Liberal Democrats pledge to pass a Zero-Carbon Britain Act to set new legally binding targets to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2040 and to zero by 2050.

Energy

The manifesto includes the aim to generate 60% of electricity from renewables by 2030, restore government support for solar PV and onshore wind in appropriate locations and build more interconnectors to underpin this higher reliance on renewables.

Saving energy will be a top infrastructure priority and a new Green Buildings Act will be passed to set new energy efficiency targets, including a long-term ambition for every home in England to reach at least an energy rating of Band C by 2035. The comment I made about overheating when reviewing the Labour manifesto about insulating houses applies here too.

Close to our work the chapter also mentions the Natural Capital Committee (the only manifesto to do so, so far, though of course outcomes are more important than processes). The Liberal Democrats will pass a Nature Act to “put the Natural Capital Committee (NCC) on a statutory footing, set legally binding natural capital targets, including on biodiversity, clean air and water, and empower the NCC to recommend actions to meet these targets”. P.50

International Development

“Provide greater resources for international environmental co-operation, particularly on climate change and on actions to tackle illegal and unsustainable trade in timber, wildlife, ivory and fish.” P.85

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labour

Labour Manifesto – environmental coverage

‘Environment’ appears as a sub-title in the ‘Leading Richer Lives’ section. While I like the acknowledgement of the contribution of the environment to ‘richer’ lives, I was initially concerned that they allocated only one page to the topic out of 123. But reading through the whole text reveals environmental issues have been woven into almost all the Chapters.

You can click on the title above to go to the page where you can see both the Manifesto. The costings that accompany this manifesto can also be found in the same link. The summary below shows quotations from the manifesto (in italics with page numbers reported) and some commentary.  The titles are mostly as they appear in the manifesto, unless statements are grouped.

Industrial Strategy

National and local government spends £200 billion a year in the private-sector procurement. Labour will put that spending power to good use to upgrade our economy, create good local jobs and reduce inequality. We will require firms supplying national or local government to meet the high standards we should expect of all businesses: paying their taxes, recognising trade unions, respecting workers’ rights and equal opportunities, protecting the environment, providing training, and paying suppliers on time.” P. 14

Environmental Policy and Brexit

“We will drop the Conservatives’ Great Repeal Bill, replacing it with an EU Rights and Protections Bill that will ensure there is no detrimental change to workers’ rights, equality law, consumer rights or environmental protections as a result of Brexit.

Throughout the Brexit process, we will make sure that all EU-derived laws that are of benefit 􀈂 including workplace laws, consumer rights and environmental protections – are fully protected without qualifications, limitations or sunset clauses.” p.25

A Labour approach to Brexit will ensure there can be no rolling back of key rights and protections and that the UK does not lag behind Europe in workplace protections and environmental standards in future.” p.26

Energy

We will transform our energy systems, investing in new, state-of-the-art low-carbon gas and renewable electricity production” p.12

“…ensure that 60% of the UK’s energy comes from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030” p.14

“…to ensure we meet our climate change targets and transition to a low-carbon economy” p.20

For renters, Labour will improve on existing Landlord Energy Efficiency regulations and re-establish the Landlord Energy Saving Allowance to encourage the uptake of efficiency measures.” p.21

Labour 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 of Climate Change says gas in the UK must sharply decline.” p.21

Climate Change – mitigation and adaptation

“Labour will insulate four million homes as an infrastructure priority to help those who suffer cold homes each winter.” p.20. This insulation design and materials should also take account of homes overheating due to increasing severity and frequency of extreme weather (like heat waves) due to climate change (see Climate Change Risk Assessment).

We will insulate more homes to help people manage the cost of energy bills, to reduce preventable winter deaths, and to meet our climate change targets.” P.60

We will reclaim Britain’s leading role in tackling climate change, working hard to preserve the Paris Agreement and deliver on international commitments to reduce emissions while mitigating the impacts of climate change on developing countries.” P.118

Transport

We will retrofit thousands of diesel busses in areas with the most severe air quality problems to Euro 6 standards.” P.91

We welcome the work done by the Airports Commission, and we will guarantee that any airport expansion adheres to our tests that require noise issues to be addressed, air quality to be protected, the UK’s climate change obligations met and growth across the country supported.” P. 92

 Water

Replace our dysfunctional water system with a network of regional publicly-owned water companies.” p.19. Commenting on the merits of this, or supporting this proposal (or not) is not my intention, neither am I able to do this. Serious work needs to be undertaken on defining dysfunctional, assessing the feasibility of this proposal and drawing regional boundaries. If the regions were defined according to catchment (or several catchments) boundaries, then they would be in line with the ‘catchment management / partnership’ approach that has been gaining traction.

Land Use

We will prioritise brownfield sites and protect the green belt.” p.60

Environment Sub-Section – key actions (p 93-94)

Investing in our environment is investing in our future. We will defend and extend existing environmental protections. We will champion sustainable farming, food and fishing by investing in and promoting skills, technology, market access and innovation.

  • prioritise a sustainable, long-term future for our farming, fishing and food industries, fund robust flood resilience, invest in rural and coastal communities, and guarantee the protection and advancement of environmental quality standards.
  • Labour will introduce a new Clean Air Act to deal with the Conservative legacy of illegal air quality.
  • We will safeguard habitats and species in the ‘blue belts’ of the seas and oceans surrounding our island.
  • We will set guiding targets for plastic bottle deposit schemes, working with food manufacturers and retailers to reduce waste.
  • We will protect our bees by prohibiting neonicotinoids as soon as our EU relationship allows us to do so.
  • We will work with farmers and foresters to plant a million trees of native species to promote biodiversity and better flood management.
  • Labour will keep them in public hands.
  • Our stewardship of the environment needs to be founded on sound principles and based on scientific assessments. We will establish a science innovation fund, working with farmers and fisheries that will include support for our small scale fishing fleet.

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Conservative Manifesto – environmental coverage 

The environment is not mentioned in the table of contents neither in the five giant challenges. If you counted the number of times the word ‘environment’ is repeated in the text, your hopes may be raised. But the word is more often used in a different context like ‘business environment’, ‘regulatory environment’ and so on.

The previous manifesto’s pledge is repeated albeit in slightly different words: I believe the previous one referred to ‘the greenest government’.  Also previously the logo was a green tree.

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.” p.26

The 25 Year Environment Plan has been in preparation for about two years (with the initially high expectations of content recently reduced to an outline).

You can click on the title above to go to the page where you can see the Manifesto. There are no costings that accompany this manifesto. The summary below shows quotations from the manifesto (in italics with page numbers reported) and some commentary.  The titles are mostly as they appear in the manifesto, unless statements are grouped.

Industrial Strategy

We will ensure industry and businesses have access to reliable, cheap and clean power.” p.19. It would have been good to see a reference to ensuring best practice environmental management, even if not minimising environmental impacts, mentioned in the Industrial Strategy where this quote is taken from.

We will therefore commission an independent review into the Cost of Energy, which will be asked to make recommendations as to how we can ensure UK energy costs are as low as possible, while ensuring a reliable supply and allowing us to meet our 2050 carbon reduction objective.

And because for British companies, an energy-efficient business is a more competitive business, we will establish an industrial energy efficiency scheme to help large companies install measures to cut their energy use and their bills.

For instance, while we do not believe that more large-scale onshore wind power is right for England, we will maintain our position as a global leader in offshore wind and support the development of wind projects in the remote islands of Scotland, where they will directly benefit local communities. ” p.22

We will therefore develop the shale industry in Britain. We will only be able to do so if we maintain public confidence in the process, if we uphold our rigorous environmental protections, and if we ensure the proceeds of the wealth generated by shale energy are shared with the communities affected.” This and more detail on how this ambition will be met can be found on page 23.

Transport

We want almost every car and van to be zero-emission by 2050 – and will invest £600 million by 2020 to help achieve it. We will invest in more low-emission buses, as well as supporting audio-visual displays for bus passengers and community minibuses for rural areas poorly served by public transport.” p.24

Towns and Cities

Our towns and cities should be healthy, well-designed and well-tended places. We will take action against poor air quality in urban areas. In addition to the 11 million trees we are planting across our nation, we will ensure that 1 million more are planted in our towns and cities, and place new duties on councils to consult when they wish to cut down street trees. We will encourage the very best practice in the design of buildings and public spaces, including a review of the design of government buildings, to ensure that when the state builds, it makes a positive contribution to a local area. We will do more to reduce litter, including by supporting comprehensive rubbish collection and recycling, supporting better packaging, taking new powers to force councils to remove roadside litter and prosecuting offenders. We will do more to improve the quality of road surfaces, filling potholes – especially in residential areas – and reducing road noise.” p.25

The Environment and Brexit

We have huge ambitions for our farming industry: we are determined to grow more, sell more and export more great British food. We want to provide stability to farmers as we leave the EU and set up new frameworks for supporting food production and stewardship of the countryside. So we will continue to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of the parliament. We will work with farmers, food producers and environmental experts across Britain and with the devolved administrations to devise a new agri-environment system, to be introduced in the following parliament.

 

We will help Natural England to expand their provision of technical expertise to farmers to deliver environmental improvements on a landscape scale, from enriching soil fertility to planting hedgerows and building dry stone walls. We will deliver on our commitment to improve natural flood management, such as improving the quality of water courses to protect against soil erosion and damage to vulnerable habitats and communities. We will continue to ensure that public forests and woodland are kept in trust for the nation, and provide stronger protections for our ancient woodland.” p.26

When we leave the European Union and its Common Fisheries Policy, we will be fully responsible for the access and management of the waters where we have historically exercised sovereign control. A new Conservative government will work with the fishing industry and with our world-class marine scientists, as well as the devolved administrations, 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. To provide complete legal certainty to our neighbours and clarity during our negotiations with the European Union, we will withdraw from the London Fisheries Convention. We will continue our work to conserve the marine environment off the coast of the United Kingdom.” p. 27

Protecting the global environment

We will continue to lead international action against climate change, and the degradation of habitat and loss of species.” p.38

The United Kingdom will lead the world in environmental protection. As Conservatives, we are committed to leaving the environment in better condition than we inherited it. That is why we will continue to take a lead in global action against climate change, as the government demonstrated by ratifying the Paris Agreement. We were the first country to introduce a Climate Change Act, which Conservatives helped to frame, and we are halfway towards meeting our 2050 goal of reducing emissions by eighty per cent from 1990 levels.

We will champion greater conservation co-operation within international bodies, protecting rare species, the polar regions and international waters. We will work with our Overseas Territory governments to create a Blue Belt of marine protection in their precious waters, establishing the largest marine sanctuaries anywhere in the world.” p.40

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GE 2017

Call me a silly cow but I’m excited about this election because I don’t think it’s only about Brexit!

I think it’s about making a decision on what role we want for the public sector and policy in all areas of government. It’s about the vision for the kind of country we want to live in. A good Brexit deal will then be one which helps us the most in making that vision reality.

It is also for this reason that I’ve read the main parties’ manifestos and will be writing a series on their coverage of environmental issues and policies.

I did this back in 2005. It was the first election I could vote in, in these pastures.

In 2010, I only searched for some key words through the texts.

This year….did I say I am excited about this election?!

So, every day this week you will get a review of the environmental pledges of a political party.  I’ll add the links here as they come online.

Conservative Party manifesto 2017 – environment overview

Labour Party manifesto 2017 – environment overview

Liberal Democrat manifesto 2017 – environment overview

UKIP manifesto 2017 – environment overview

Green Party manifesto 2017 – environment overview

For a final word from me on the manifestos click here

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The state of the art in marine science raises many fascinating questions – the Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry’s (SETAC’s) symposium highlights just how much we still have to learn about our planet’s oceans. What are human pressures – like the cocaine detected in Oslo’s fjord originating from the city’s waste water, or the billions of tonnes of microscopic plastic fragments accumulating in the world’s oceans – doing to marine life?

The emerging evidence on Ocean acidification is particularly striking, and a threat whichever greenhouse gas emissions path the world ends up on. I’ve always heard targets for emissions reductions described in terms of avoiding the risk of ‘dangerous climate change’ (limiting global warming to 2 degrees, although you suspect it’s not that simple). But these scenarios still involve massively higher anthropocentric emissions of carbon dioxide, which will be absorbed into the ocean.

So ocean acidification is ongoing and unavoidable – reductions in emissions can reduce its speed but more acidic oceans are inevitable. Some organisms will grow more quickly, others more slowly. For many species, acidification will mean they require more energy to survive, to regulate their internal chemistry. This means they have less energy available for growth. Overall, biological productivity is expected to reduce so ocean biomass will fall, affecting the entire food chain.

We are not going to mitigate all of humanity’s effects on the planet, so it’s a question of priorities for actions: I hope the fish are only exposed to doses of cocaine at weekends, rather than being permanently on acid.

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The recently-finished Medmerry managed realignment scheme, on the South Coast, is an excellent example of how society can work with nature for the benefit of all parties.

The £28m scheme involved building 7km of sea walls up to 2km inland and then  ‘making a hole’ in the existing sea wall, thus allowing the seawater to naturally come into the land. This will now protect over 300 homes, local caravan parks and businesses, a water treatment plant and a main road from a once-in-a-thousand year flood. This area was previously prone to flooding; therefore the avoided damage from this scheme will be valuable.

An important reason for the water being allowed to come inland was to create a 180Ha saltwater marshland, thus offsetting the habitats that were lost in the flood protection projects of larger cities such as Southampton and Portsmouth. The creation of this rare saltwater marsh will bring in numerous species. As well as the wildlife reserve, footpaths, cycle paths and bridleways will be opened. As a result, nature-based tourism in the area is hoped to increase, which will benefit the local economy.

By working with nature, rather than against it, the project has benefited both humans and the environment. The scheme has given a home, or resting spot, to wildlife, whilst providing recreational, protection, participation, and tourism benefits to the local community. It is an excellent example of how incorporating nature-based values into decision making can improve society as a whole.

This is the biggest scheme of its kind in the UK to date and it will be observed closely to see if it can be applied to other regions that are threatened by rising waters.

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The Pitcairn Islands are a British Overseas Territory, comprising of four small islands in a remote area of the Pacific Ocean. The permanent population of around 50 people all reside on Henderson Island. It is most famous for being the last settling point where mutineers on the Bounty settled in the 1780s; the current inhabitants are direct descendants of these hardy few.

At the 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress in Marseille, France, this week and on the PEW Charitable Trusts website, is the proposed Pitcairn Marine Reserve- which plans to establish one of the World’s largest protected marine reserves. Based on its 2012 report, on the economics of the proposed Pitcairn Reserve, eftec has contributed to this discussion.

The conclusions from the report helped lay the foundation for the current proposal, Protect Pitcairn: An Underwater Bounty.

In our report, we devised and compared 3 development options open to Pitcairn.

  1. The Baseline: where the current situation continues (no marine reserve and no fishing licenses).
  2. Marine reserve: the waters up to 200 miles off-shore, equating to 836,000km2 (or the size of Alaska and California combined) is established as a reserve and only local artisanal fishing is allowed.
  3. Exploitation: no reserve is created. Instead, a fishing license regime develops, thereby allowing commercial access to Pitcairn’s waters.

Currently, the islanders fish in a traditional fashion for subsistence and local trade, and there are very few commercial fishing vessels in the proposed area due to its remoteness.

The report estimated that if Pitcairn were to open their waters to fishing, and sell fishing licenses, it could only generate around $(US) 32,000 p.a.

eftec’s report argued that it is likely that the benefits of establishing the marine reserve would far outweigh this revenue.

The proposed marine reserve would significantly enhance Pitcairn’s image on the global stage. The resulting increase in tourism, particularly in numbers of cruise ships visiting, could generate significant revenue for such a small economy. Furthermore, branding itself as one of the World’s largest marine reserves would enable the island to increase the price of existing products.

As well as monetary benefits, there would be substantial non-market values from establishing the marine reserve. The National Geographic expedition in 2012 claimed that the ocean around Pitcairn is how it was a thousand years ago, with pristine reefs and clear waters, visibility is 75 metres- the highest in the Pacific. The team’s 16 underwater cameras, each covering a few square metres for 5 hours, saw 57 species of fish- 8 of which were new to science! Imagine how many more are lurking in the 836,000km2 of water that could be protected.

Therefore, the unexploited marine ecosystem may provide essential services of great value to the World, beyond what we can currently monetise. The islanders voted unanimously in favour for the ‘Protect Pitcairn: An Underwater Bounty’ to be presented to the British government for approval.

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