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Lacking detail: Labour’s manifesto falls short on commitment

In our second analysis of environmental pledges from the major political parties in the run up to next month’s General Election, we find the biggest opposition failing on the fine print.

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And we’re not alone. A number of voices have pointed out there’s a distinct absence of detail, which is usually where the devil is found when it comes to climate policy. The nuanced crisis needs a delicate and well-considered hand. 

According to a joint assessment by the charities Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, Labour’s manifesto, which they’ve dubbed ‘Change’, scores higher than the Conservatives on green issues. Looking at 40 policy recommendations the environmental organisations jointly published last year, Labour came out with 21 points, up against the Tories, who scored a meagre five. Climate and energy, homes and transport, nature and environment were all factored. 

As were justice and democracy. Given Environment Journal was writing about the UN Special Rapporteur on Environmental Defenders under the Aarhus Convention’s ‘serious concerns‘ about the persecution and prosecution of climate activism in Britain, it’s hardly surprising the current government might struggle in this area. Having said that, Keir Starmer has said little about addressing clear problems that exist in regressive policing laws introduced in 2022. 

Labour has, however, talked about reducing dependence on oil and gas, while boosting renewables. This would offer more energy security, and more energy in general, and help reduce overall climate footprints. But, as we found at COP28 last November, saying ‘actually, moving forward, we do need to use far fewer fossil fuels ‘ is different to setting out a clear, accountable roadmap for that. 

Nevertheless, there are also promises to meet internationally agreed standards for reducing oil and gas reliance by two-thirds before 2030 is finished. It would just be nice to understand how this is going to happen given the next government will have less than six years to actually achieve the goal, and is arriving after four years largely defined by backward steps for the environment. 

Funding is the biggest obstacle, something impacting both public and private sector progress. This isn’t confined to Britain, either. We’re seeing worrying slowdown in the amount of money being thrown at net zero when you consider how much is needed to hit zero carbon at this century’s halfway point. But Labour’s lack of detail around other contributing sectors, such as public transport – something that should be a high priority for any left wing party – is also notable.

Nevertheless, it’s important to apply context. When looking at the two biggest political sides in the forthcoming General Election, there are few comparisons. Our own analysis of the Conservative manifesto last week flagged plenty of red flags, including what some have described as a potential ‘bonfire’ of red tape on environmental regulations, more fossil fuel contracts, and blocking measures aimed at tackling air pollution. At least Labour seem to recognise the urgency. 

All that said, widening scope presents July 4th’s General Election as a particularly big one. Recent European Parliament votes sent shockwaves through many observers due to the scale of far right gains. Latest polling in Britain shows the populist Reform party are just 4 points behind the Conservatives, with 16% of the electorate on side. There’s more distance between them and the Lib Dems, who lag on just 11%, not to mention the Green Party, with 6% – the two most climate-first parties. 

Ignoring all other policies, Reform’s environmental stance makes the Tories look like activists. More on that next week. In the meantime, let’s just contemplate how the re-appearance of Nigel Farage as a party leader mirrors voter trends across the world, as centrism loses ground rapidly. Whatever happens next month is unlikely to result in a Reform government, we are almost guaranteed either Conservative or Labour leadership. So let’s just hope Downing Street’s tenants understand how important it will be to deliver on their pledges during the forthcoming term. 

More on the General Election: 

The UK environment deserves better than the Conservative manifesto

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