It’s election day! But you still have some time to read this and consider which party meets your green quota.
There is widespread coverage of the COP25 UN Climate Summit currently occurring in Madrid. Children and young people are at the center of the debate as talks continue, while UN negotiators have been accused of ‘playing politics’. Young people, including Greta Thunberg, played a leading role in protests at COP25 over the weekend. They also appeared on Monday at the conference to put pressure on negotiators to come up with a plan for reducing greenhouse gases and tackling the impact of climate breakdown.
Also, most of us are aware that in recent months extensive coverage of the climate crisis has occurred in the UK because of groups such as Extinction Rebellion, school climate strikers, extreme weather, and of course, Greta Thunberg’s powerful speech at the UN in September. The climate crisis is at the top of many young voters’ minds.
With the general election taking place today, there have been talks from each of the parties about their pledges for tackling climate change. this would have been unthinkable a few years ago, but the climate emergency has risen to the top of the agenda for the election. The UK has never had an election with such an emphasis on the environment. All of the major parties are supporting a transition to net zero greenhouse gases within the next few decades and competing with each other on the necessary policies to deliver this.
According to the Friends of the Earth survey, Labour has the strongest policies to combat climate change. Dave Timms, Friends of the Earth’s Head of Political Affairs, said:
‘Environmental issues have been given greater priority in this election than ever before — and with the world in the midst of an ecological and climate crisis this must be the next government’s top priority’.
The same FoE survey also gave each party a score out of 45. The results are:
Liberal Democrat: 30
Labour has challenged the Green Party by dedicating the top section of its manifesto to the climate crisis. Labour plans to make England’s entire bus fleet electric by 2030, with a 4 billion pound investment. Labour’s manifesto also includes a ‘frequent flyer levy’, which would be placed on the 15 per cent of people who take 70 per cent of all flights. The manifesto also discussed policies including an 11 billion pound windfall tax on oil and gas companies, a million new jobs in a ‘green industrial revolution’ and commitment on moving towards a net-zero carbon economy.
The Green Party and the Liberal Democrats also set out important policies to reverse the effects of climate change. The Greens say that protection of the environment must be at the heart of all government policy, no matter which government is in charge. If it’s them, they would borrow 100 billion pounds a year for this transformation, with mass home insulation and new industries created to provide clean jobs.
The Green Party also made the pitch to ban gases by 2030. This would mean petrol and diesel vehicles would be swapped for electric vehicles and gas boilers would be phased out. The Greens say this is what must happen to protect the climate, but is it realistic? Arguably, this plan requires clear, stable and well-designed policies to reduce emissions, as well as sufficient allocation of funds.
The Liberal Democrats have also promised to generate 80 per cent of the UK’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030, to bring forward the 2045 deadline for net-zero carbon and to expand electric vehicles and ban fracking.
There are questions about whether Britain can afford these radical expenses for the environment. Taxes would need to be raised to pay for it, or government borrowing would need to increase. In the Labour government manifesto, the party would bring in a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, thereby raising 11 billion pounds based on individual company contributions to climate change since 1996. The Labour Party also proposes a program funded by state investment to decarbonise the economy. This would also create thousands of green jobs in the country. Again, questions have been raised if the numbers mentioned can cover the party’s ambitious plans. But at least there is a dedicated commitment to seriously tackling environmental concerns.
Finally, the Conservative Party offers decent policies on plastics and agricultural subsidies but its commitment to tackling the climate crisis is less of a priority in comparison to other parties. Their manifesto arguably fails to address the climate and nature emergencies occurring in the UK and around the world. They are also sticking to their original target of eliminating greenhouse gases no earlier than 2050.
The election’s focus on climate change and eliminating greenhouse gases is extremely important in getting young people to vote on December 12. People under 25 made up the highest number of those who registered to vote, according to the Electoral Reform Society. Young people are also the ones who are most affected by environmental policy, as they will be the ones living with the consequences of climate change.
Dr Ben Bowman, from the University of Manchester, said the youth vote could help Labour and the Green Party win more votes, and that Brexit would not be the biggest concern when young people go to cast their vote.
It is no secret that young people are significantly more concerned about mental health and climate change. According to a survey from YouGov, asking how important various issues facing Britain are, 42 per cent of 18-29- year-olds surveyed stated that the environment was the most important issue. Based on this, a reasonable guess would be to say that the party that wants to win over younger voters, needs to have the environment at the top of its agenda.