Archive for the ‘Election’ Category

green party

This is a rather late and a shorter version. But the Green Party made it easy to pick out their environmental pledges. They are the only party with a separate environment manifesto – perhaps not surprisingly. It can be seen here.

Green Party’s key environmental policies are on this webpage, easy to see:

  • An Environmental Protection Act to safeguard and restore our environment, protect and enhance biodiversity, promote sustainable food and farming, and ensure animal protection.
  • A public works programme of insulation to make every home warm and investing in flood defences and natural flood management to make every community safer.
  • Equality of access to nature and green spaces, to enhance leisure, health and wellbeing.
  • Active ongoing cooperation with businesses and other countries to limit global temperature increases to well below 2 degrees and aiming for 1.5 degrees.
  • Replacing fracking, coal power stations, subsidies to fossil fuels and nuclear with the clean green efficient renewable energy of the future, and investing in community owned energy.
  • Introduce a one-off fine on car manufacturers who cheated the emissions testing regime and create a new Clean Air Act, expanding and funding a mandatory clean air zone network.
  • Strong protection for the Green Belt, National Parks, SSSIs and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
  • A wider, more effective network of marine protected areas around our coasts, including fully protected no take zones.
  • Tough action to reduce plastic and other waste, including the introduction of Deposit Return Schemes, with a zero waste target.

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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


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


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


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.


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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Electioneering is in full swing and this year’s campaign has a very different feel to it. Unfortunately it’s not good news for the environment.

Thinking back to 2010, the environmental message was a key part of the election campaign. The manifestos had whole chapters dedicated to the environment, climate change and green economy. The Conservatives made a bold pledge to be the greenest government ever and even had a green tree as their logo!

Politicians work to represent the interests and concerns of the people and back in 2010 things were very different. Firstly, the fallout from the 2008 economic crisis hadn’t really hit home. Secondly, there was heightened public awareness of environmental damage stemming from the explosion of media coverage following the Stern review on climate change. The politicians responded and the environment was catapulted to the forefront of the campaigns.

The election results saw the Green party’s first MP and the Coalition government publish the first White Paper on the natural environment in over 20 years.

Back to 2015 and there is practically no mention of environmental issues in the campaigns. Aside from a cringe worthy reference to sustainable development by Natalie Bennett (Green party) in the 7 party TV debate, the environment has just a page or two in the manifestos and the Tory tree has been obscured by a Union Jack (but yes, the tree is still there!). More on the manifestos to follow on Cow Burps.

Given the current economic climate it’s not surprising that today’s main political messages are around security of jobs, incomes, houses and healthcare. The treatment of the environment across the two campaigns highlights the reactive nature of the political game. But are the politicians really reacting to the needs of the voters? The environment is lost in the current campaigning maybe because it’s seen to directly compete against jobs, incomes, houses and healthcare. But what about the view that these are compliments – that investing in the environment delivers these things? That message still seems a harder sell.

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Aldersgate Group event, 29th April, 2010: Priorities for the first 100 days of the new Government.

We may not know who will form the UK’s next Government, but we do know that they face environmental challenges that require urgent action. The latest report from the Aldersgate Group brings together research into the finance, skills and resource management policies required to enable the economy to make the transition to a low-carbon future. (“Accelerating the Transition”). Launching the report, a common theme was the need to simplify the range of regulations aimed to control carbon emissions in different sectors of the economy. These rules are devised to incentivise adaptation in each sector optimally, but how much do we know about the potential for adaptation?

Economics studies the costs and benefits of changes to human activity, but economists don’t get the chance to do real-life experiments to see how changes might work in practice. For example, we aren’t allowed to double the price of petrol for a week and see how people behave. The recent halting of UK air travel as a result of the Icelandic Ash Cloud provides us with a real experiment (unfortunately for the thousands of inconvenienced travellers) – how do people change behaviour when they can’t fly? Speaking at the Aldersgate Group event, a director at British Telecom said their video-conferencing business had risen by 35% during the travel suspension – evidence that substitutes for air travel can allow adaptation to low-carbon activities.  Last week’s closure of the air space in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the weekend’s closure of some European air spaces have given travellers a further incentive to adopt alternative means of transport, or choices of destination.  It will be interesting to check whether the number of travellers choosing to fly to destinations within the UK and Europe decrease as a result.

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With apologies from Daisy who has left the Green Party manifesto to the last day and will not be able to give it a full treatment. But it’s true Green Party pastures are indeed greener.

They have their priorities in hierarchies. For energy demand for example, the priorities are: remove, reduce, replace…with nuclear power not being an option. This is one of those things that separate the Greens from the other three parties who do not rule out (in fact encourage) nuclear power.

They also have priorities for transport: walking and cycling, public transport, cars, heavy goods vehicles, flying.  The priority for food is local production.

Most instruments proposed are regulation and public funding – with funds diverted from environmentally damaging investments (like from road building to public transport). The key policy proposal by the Greens that is different to other parties is the Personal Carbon Quotas. It’s like having a carbon credit in your carbon card at the start of the year and every time you make a carbon emitting purchase (fossil fuels, flying etc.) the credit declines. If you don’t spend all your carbon, you can sell it. If you need more, you can purchase more. This is in effect what happens between businesses in the EU ETS. The Greens want to extend it to individuals – as an incentive to change consumer behaviour, which is necessary.

Personal Carbon Quotas is not a new idea the Greens have come up with. It’s been researched by environmental economists and others for some years now. Whether it will be taken up in the near future I don’t know but continued discussion and political interest are necessary. And it seems this and other environmental discussions will be livelier if the Greens can secure one or all of the top three seats they are fighting for.

Hope some of you have already voted. If not, see Franny Armstrong’s (director of The Age of Stupid) article in The Guardian for how those who care for the environment should vote. It’s a brilliant summary and as I am all for efficiency, I won’t summarise it here but invite you to click here to read what she says.

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Like Labour, the Conservatives go for a separate chapter on the environment. In the rest of the manifesto, they use the word ‘environment’ in different contexts: an ‘attractive tax environment for intellectual property’, a ‘better business environment’, a ‘more stable environment for low-carbon investment’…They also have a ‘greener environment’ subsection under Changing the Economy.

Given that they have the longest manifesto amongst the main parties, the Conservatives have also found space for issues not covered in others, like whaling, ivory sales, reform of environment – regulatory quangos, GMOs. They are forthcoming in stating that they will need to use incentives rather than regulation. They say: “Instead of using rules and regulations to impose a centralised worldview, we will go with the grain of human nature, creating new incentives and market signals which reward people for doing the right thing”. As an economist, it’s hard to disagree with this statement. But what does it mean in terms of individual policies they propose. Let’s see…

1. Regulations – environmental standards, limits to how environmental resources can be used and so on

  • We will stop the third runway and instead link Heathrow directly to our high speed rail network, providing an alternative to thousands of flights [it’s not clear what this alternative is…I sincerely hope it’s not Boris Johnson’s Thames Estuary airport idea!]
  • We will block plans for second runways at Stansted and Gatwick.

  • We will grant longer, more flexible rail franchises to incentivise private sector investment in improvements like longer trains and better stations.

  • We can confirm our aim of reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. In government, we will lead from the front by delivering a 10 per cent cut in central government emissions within twelve months and by working with local authorities and others to deliver emissions reductions.

  • We will introduce an Emissions Performance Standard to limit the levels of greenhouse gases our power stations produce;

  • We will clear the way for new nuclear power stations – provided they receive no public subsidy.

  • We will create four carbon capture and storage equipped plants, taking coal – one of the most polluting fuels of all – and transforming it into a low carbon fuel of the future [so will Labour they say]

2. Taxes on environmentally bad behaviour like pollution or (excessive) use of environmental resources

  • We will increase the proportion of tax revenues accounted for by environmental taxes, ensuring that any additional revenues from new green taxes that are principally designed as an environmental measure to change behaviour are used to reduce the burden of taxation elsewhere.

  • We will reform Air Passenger Duty to encourage a switch to fuller and cleaner planes.

  • We will tackle illegal logging by pressing for financial support from within a reformed EU budget to be given to developing countries to halt deforestation; pressing for only legally-harvested timber and timber products to be made available on the market; and introducing a new criminal offence under UK law for the import and possession of illegal timber.

  • We will put a floor under the standard rate of landfill tax until 2020 to encourage alternative forms of waste disposal.

3. Allocation and trading of pollution and resource permits like emissions of carbon and fish catch

  • We will pioneer a new system of conservation credits to protect habitats.

This is not fully tradeable system and details are not clear other than short statements made earlier and covered by Limu in an earlier post in this blog. Click here to read that one. Incidentally, this is not an entirely new or ‘pioneering’ idea as Defra has been working on a similar system for the last couple of years. See their report here.

4. Subsidies to encourage the supply of and demand for environmentally friendly technology, improvements in efficiency of using  natural resources

  • So we will introduce incentives for electricity network operators to establish a new national car recharging network, making it much easier for drivers to move to electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

  • We will create a ‘Green Deal’, giving every home up to £6,500 worth of energy improvement measures – with more for hard-to-treat homes – paid for out of savings made on fuel bills over 25 years.

  • We will fight for wholesale reform of the Common Fisheries Policy to encourage sustainable practices, give communities a greater say over the future of their fishing industries, and bring an end to the scandal of fish discards.

  • We will negotiate for further reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to deliver greater value for money while supporting the sustainability of British farming.

5. Ensuring full pricing of natural resources which includes not only the capital and labour used in their processing but also the environmental damage caused by their extraction or simply their use

  • We will reform the Climate Change Levy to provide a floor price for carbon, delivering the right climate for investment in low carbon.

6. Mix of instruments

  • We will create Britain’s first Green Investment Bank – which will draw together money currently divided across existing government initiatives, leveraging private sector capital to finance new green technology start-ups.

  • We will create green Individual Savings Accounts to help provide the financial backing we need to create a low carbon economy. [no more details unfortunately]
  • We will introduce a Responsibility Deal on waste – a voluntary arrangement among producers to cut back on the production of waste and improve its disposal – as we move towards our goal of a zero-waste society.

So lots of ticks for each policy instruments and some changes. While they are not being explicit about it some of these changes are already been researched and discussed. So, it comes down to who should action the changes everyone seems to agree. And whether I should be washing my proverbial hair!

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Labour’s manifesto makes a great deal of what Labour has done for the environment while in government and how they will continue the current programmes that are successful. Perhaps that’s what all governing parties do in their manifesto. I wouldn’t know as I’ve never read manifestos cover to cover before!  But the Labour Government has indeed done a lot for the environment so there is no reason why they should not mention these.

Unlike Liberal Democrats who have integrated environmental policies within other related topics and sectors, Labour has a separate chapter on the Environment and only a few references in other sections like transport. Each approach has its pros and cons of course: nice to see integration in the former which, on the down side, ends up repeating the same policies several times under separate headings. Separate focus could be more succinct so long as implementation is more coordinated than writing the manifesto.

Also unlike Liberal Democrats’ manifesto, the key issue in Labour’s coverage of environmental issues is carbon and climate change. I guess we can say that Labour is trying to achieve the integration between environment and other policies through the ‘transition of the economy from a high-carbon to a low-carbon’ one. I like that as an objective but what’s on offer in terms of policy instruments to achieve that?  The text in italics is from the manifesto.

1. Regulations – environmental standards, limits to how environmental resources can be used and so on

  • The Labour Government played a key role in securing a new international agreement at Kyoto [and some mention of the ‘progress’ made in Copenhagen]. In the next Parliament, we will use our leadership in the EU to push for a strengthening of Europe’s 2020 emission reductions from 20 to 30 percent by 2010 as part of an ambitious global deal.
  • Our 2008 Climate Change Act makes the UK the first country in the world to put its carbon targets into law – cutting emissions by a third (34 per cent) by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050 on 1990 levels. Our UK Low Carbon Transition Plan sets out a comprehensive strategy for reducing emissions right across the economy, with every government department given its own ‘carbon budget’.
  • Through our two landmark Acts – the Countryside and Rights of Way Act and the Marine and Coastal Access Act – and the creation of two new National Parks in the New Forest and South Downs we have enabled millions of people to enjoy our countryside and coastal areas.
  • By setting and exceeding our target for 60 per cent of new developments to be on brownfield land and by extending the area of Green Belt we have contributed both to the renaissance of our urban areas and to the protection of the countryside.
  • We support a third runway at Heathrow, subject to strict conditions on environmental impact and flight numbers, but we will not allow additional runways to proceed at any other airport in the next Parliament. [Lib Dems oppose a third runway]
  • We will ensure there are 100,000 electric vehicle charging points by the end of the next Parliament.

  • Move towards a ‘zero waste’ Britain, banning recyclable and biodegradable materials from landfill.

  • Link together new protected areas of habitat; maintain the Green Belt; increase forest and woodland areas.
  • We are planning for around 40% of our electricity to come from low-carbon sources by 2020.

  • By 2020 every home will have a smart meter to help control energy use and enable cheaper tariffs; and we will enable secen mission homes to have a fuller ‘eco-upgrade’.

  • We will maintain the target that 60 per cent of new development should be on brownfield land

2. Taxes on environmentally bad behaviour like pollution or (excessive) use of environmental resources

  • We have taken the decisions to enable a new generation of nuclear power stations, and a programme of four clean coal plants with carbon capture and storage technology with a level to fund them.

  • We rule out the introduction of national road pricing in the next Parliament.

3. Allocation and trading of pollution and resource permits like emissions of carbon and fish catch

No explicit mention but I guess increasing EU’s commitment to carbon emissions reduction would require some extension of EU ETS.

4. Subsidies to encourage the supply of and demand for environmentally friendly technology, improvements in efficiency of using  natural resources

  • We are committed to spending £3.9 billion in the next Rural Development Programme in England, the major part of which will be devoted to agri-environment Environmental Stewardship schemes, improving the quality of our countryside for people and wildlife.
  • We are spending £1.5 billion on climate assistance to developing countries between 2010 and 2012 and are committed to ensuring that from 2013 part of our climate assistance is additional to our pledge to provide 0.7 per cent of national income in aid, with no more than 10 per cent of our Official Development Assistance counted towards climate finance
  • Through our requirement that energy companies provide subsidies for insulation, we will ensure that all household lofts and cavity walls are insulated, where practical, by 2015.

  • Will continue to seek reform of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) [and] push for fundemantal reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy.

5. Ensuring full pricing of natural resources which includes not only the capital and labour used in their processing but also the environmental damage caused by their extraction or simply their use

  • We will encourage more people to switch to rail with an enforceable right to the cheapest fare, while trebling the number of secure cycle storage spaces at rail stations.

6. Mix of instruments

  • Make greener living easier and fairer through ‘pay as you save’ home energy insulation, energy-bill discounts for pensioners and requiring landlords to properly insulate rented homes.

  • We will ensure greater competition in the energy supply market. And we will review the role of the water regulator, Ofwat, to ensure customers get the best deal and their voice is heard in price-setting.

  • We will devolve power to local councils to hold energy companies to account for community energy efficiency programmes, and give them powers to develop local energy systems such as renewable and district heating.

Perhaps because I am an economist and I am aware of trade-offs, and limitations to win-win policies – though they do exist, I like the admission in the Labour manifesto of the need “to find new ways of balancing the multiple uses of land: safeguarding food security at the same time as enriching our natural environment; protecting distinctive landscapes while enabling environmentally sensitive development.” Balancing is a difficult act to pull but admitting to the need seems to be a good start.

More manifesto summaries to follow…

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In this instalment of our coverage of the main political parties’ environmental policies, we summarise the environmental proposals in the Liberal Democrat’s manifesto. Starting with Lib Dems is not because of the recent increase in Nick Clegg’s popularity but because of the seemingly extensive discussion of environmental policy in the party’s manifesto.

All the parties claim environment to be important (oh except for BNP who don’t believe in climate change but we won’t be covering their manifesto in this blog) and make statements (truisms?) that no one can disagree. Therefore, it is not what the parties say about their environmental policy that is important but how they propose to implement their policies.

There are many instruments to implement environmental policy. The most successful policies use a mixture of these instruments – some to create carrots and some to create sticks to change the environmentally damaging behaviours of businesses and individuals. The problem with carrots is that in the real world they usually mean money (like subsidising environmentally friendly technology) and governments have to find that money from somewhere. The problem with sticks is that in the real world they mean regulations, fines, taxes, permit trading (like carbon trading) and others which are difficult to get political acceptance, and still cost money to implement (even taxes and permit trading which do / could bring revenue cost money to impose).

So here are the instruments for environmental policy and a selection of how Liberal Democrats are proposing to use them (in italics):

1. Regulations – environmental standards, limits to how environmental resources can be used and so on

  • Save lives and reduce pressure on NHS budgets by cutting air pollution. We will cancel plans for a third runway at Heathrow and other airport expansion in the South East and reduce pollution from vehicle exhausts through tighter regulation. We will aim to fully meet European air quality targets by 2012.
  • Make Network Rail refund a third of your ticket price if you have to take a rail replacement bus service.
  • Set a target for 40% of UK electricity to come from clean, non-carbon-emitting sources by 2020.
  • Block any new coal-power stations – the most polluting form of power generation – unless they are accompanied by the highest level of carbon capture and storage facilities.
  • Reject a new generation of nuclear power stations, based on the evidence nuclear is a far more expensive way of reducing carbon emissions than promoting energy conservation and renewable energy.
  • Work with other countries to develop an international labelling system for the environmental impact of products, helping consumers choose those with the least impact on resource use and pollution.
  • Keep the pressure on for reform of agriculture subsidies so that farmers, consumers and taxpayers get a fair deal, and the environment is protected.
  • Set target for ‘zero waste’.
  • Stop major new housing developments in major flood risk areas.

2. Taxes on environmentally bad behaviour like pollution or (excessive) use of environmental resources

  • Ensuring pollution is properly taxed by replacing the per-passenger Air Passenger Duty with a per-plane duty (PPD), ensuring that air freight is taxed for the first time.
  • We will also introduce an additional, higher rate of PPD on domestic flights if realistic alternative and less polluting travel is available.

3. Allocation and trading of pollution and resource permits like emissions of carbon and fish catch

  • Boost investment in clean energy by reforming the EU emissions trading scheme – bringing in a tighter cap on emissions, auctioning as many allowances as possible, and encouraging other European countries to icrease the use of reserve prices in allowance auctions.

4 . Subsidies to encourage the supply of and demand for environmentally friendly technology, improvements in efficiency of using  natural resources

  • Investing up to £400 million in refurbishing shipyards in the North of England and Scotland so that they can manufacture offshore wind turbines and other marine renewable energy equipment.
  • Launching an ‘Eco Cash-back’ scheme, for one year only, which will give you £400, if you install double glazing, replace an old boiler or install micro-generation.
  • Setting aside extra money for schools who want to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings.
  • Encourage community-owned renewable energy schemes where local people benefit from the power produced.
  • Change the tariffs used by energy supply companies so that the first, essential, energy you use is the cheapest. We’ll ensure that effective energy efficiency measures are introduced to keep bills low and that ‘social tariffs’ are available to guarantee the best price for all those in most need. [actually there already is a social tariff in the energy sector and another one is being discussed for the water bills]
  • Work to increase the resourcing of the UN Environment Programme and improve the enforcement of international environmental treaties.
  • Invest £140 million in a bus scrappage scheme that helps bus companies to replace old polluting busses with new low-carbon ones and creates jobs.

5. Ensuring full pricing of natural resources which includes not only the capital and labour used in their processing but also the environmental damage caused by their extraction or simply their use

  • Undertake preparations for the introduction of a system of road pricing (to be revenue neutral) in a second parliament.

6. Mix of instruments

  • Protect the world’s forests, not only to reduce carbon emissions but also to preserve this crucial reservoir of biodiversity. We will argue for an international target of zero net deforestation by 2020, support a new system of payments to developing countries to enable them to reduce deforestation in [a subsidy], and adopt at EU – or, if necessary, at UK – level a new law making it illegal to import and process timber produced illegally in foreign countries.
  • Bring a ten-year programme of home insulation, offering a home energy improvement package of up to £10,000 per home, paid for by the savings from lower energy bills and make sure every new home is fully energy-efficient by improving building regulations

Lib Dem’s manifesto has at least one proposal for each type of instrument. But as you can see from this selection, the majority is in regulations and subsidies. Hard to disagree even harder to implement – especially when it is not clear how successful regulations will be, where the funds for the subsidies will come from and given that most subsidies are for one year, how effective they would be (there are of course other problems associated with longer term subsidies but this post is already long enough!).

We are reading the other manifestos…though not much time left before the 6th of May.

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