Editor's Pick

The UK environment deserves better than the Conservative manifesto

In our first analysis of promises made by major political parties in the run up to 2024’s General Election, we find disconnect, inconsistency and yet more fossil fuel contracts buried in big Tory claims. 

the sun is setting over the city of london

A list of electoral pledges which ‘falls so far short of what’s needed it reads like the party has given up the long-held conservative value of protecting the environment for future generations.’ 

Mike Childs, Head of Policy at Friends of the Earth, hardly minced his words this week when responding to the Conservative manifesto. Published ahead of a General Election on Thursday 4th July, the comments come amid a torrid time for the Tories, with successive polls putting Labour around 24 points ahead and just weeks to go until the public goes to vote.

Things are now so bad Lee Cain, founding partner of public affairs and communications consultancy Charlesbye Strategy, described Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent trip to the former-Red Wall of the North East as ‘about firming up the base, beating back [emergent right wing party] Reform and ensuring that defeat isn’t as bad as it could be.’ 

Among the environmental concerns raised in response to the Conservative manifesto is the promise of new oil and gas licensing, alongside a number of new gas-fired power stations. More spending will be allocated to roads, too, although given many are quite literally collapsing into themselves, littered with potholes, this is unlikely to be the biggest point of division. In comparison, failing to follow the advice of the National Infrastructure Commission – which recommends paying 100% of the costs of installing heat pumps in low income households – is likely to make a few people pretty angry. 

Elsewhere, new bus routes are said to be on the way, with a value of £1billion. But, as Environment Journal reported last year, services have actually fallen by 60% across constituencies outside London in the past 15 years. The Conservatives have been in power for the vast majority of that time, casting an uncomfortable spotlight on the party’s poor record on public transport investment, despite reducing emissions from travel being a cornerstone of net zero transition. 

It’s also unclear how expanding the UK’s renewable energy infrastructure will work when a de-facto block on onshore wind is still in place for England, and solar is still often treated as an after thought by the current Downing Street administration. The absence of any real policy to insulate one of Europe’s worst performing housing stock in energy terms, and a failure to commit more money to halting nature’s decline by 2030, are also big red flags for environmental and cost-of-living campaigners. And, suffice to say, given 2023’s succession of Tory u-turns on climate policy, the party has serious ground to make up convincing an electorate the scant green initiatives now being promised will actually come to fruition. 

More on climate change and net zero: 

69% of CEOs view sustainability as a growth opportunity

Chartered Institute for Environmental Health launches general election campaign

Tottenham Hotspur top list of most sustainable football clubs


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