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We don’t need another un-costed manifesto: Lib Dem election promises

Ahead of the UK General Election 2024, we turn our attention to pledges made by the country’s fourth biggest party based on polling data.

polling station poster on clear glass door

After being all-but-wiped out of the running in the years that followed the EU referendum, the Liberal Democrats have slowly been clawing back support in the past half decade. And of the three ‘traditional’ factions, theirs has been the loudest environmental voice during that time. 

Hopes will be high for some gains on Thursday 4th July, then, when the UK goes to the voting booths. Currently, team yellow are polling at 11% of the electorate, behind Reform, which has a lead on the Tories, and frontrunners Labour. But what is Ed Davey’s party actually saying about climate, carbon, emissions and energy? 

When it comes to targets, there are plenty. ‘Doubling nature’ by 2050 through a massive expansion of the Protected Nature network, including Sites of Special Scientific Interest. An overhaul of marine protections to plug significant gaps in the current framework, ending industrial and transportation disruption in areas that should be off limits. More ecologically managed fisheries. 

The Lib Dems are also one of very few parties to specifically reference the use of nature-based solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change – although reforestation is talked about by almost every side in the race. Peatland restoration, banning horticultural peat, and working to stop deforestation at a global level are also ledges from Davey’s policy hymn sheet.

Meanwhile, farmers will benefit from ‘public money for public goods’, rewarding them for schemes and activities that benefit the nation. Such as wildlife restoration and reducing water pollution. This last point is particularly significant, as it touches on a wider pledge to take more action against businesses that damage the environment.

Organisations will be held to account on terms on a duty to protect the natural world. At the same time, there will be a refocus on building a ‘nature-positive economy, meaning nature must be considered when making corporate and policy decisions of all kinds. That includes property development, with biodiversity also a big part of a manifesto the Lib Dems have entitled For A Fair Deal.

A ‘rooftop solar revolution’, emergency insulation programme for homes, and 90% renewable power in the UK grid by 2030, compulsory green pension investments, and raising energy standards for new homes also factor.  Sadly, though, there’s very little in the specifics about the mechanisms of this ‘deal’. 

On nature recovery, for example, we don’t know if current legal requirements to halt nature decline completely by 2030 will stand. Meaning we also have no clue on the approach to management, with just 43-51% of Britain’s Protected area network considered to be well-managed right now. 

An Environmental Rights Act, recognising an individual’s right to a healthy environment, is another interesting idea. Quite what this would look like on paper, and how far-reaching it could be, is anyone’s guess, though. Nevertheless, protecting up to one million acres, finally finishing a national coastal path route, looking at ‘right to roam’ for waterways, and a new National Nature Parks designation, all of which form part of this, should be easier to start work on. 

Nevertheless, they’re also hugely ambitious in their own right, which again raises the spectre of money. And lack thereof. With national debt now at more than £2.6 trillion, 98% of GDP, one of the biggest tasks for any party is convincing the public pledges can be paid for, and how that will happen. More so, they must be cost effective. This is particularly important when it comes to climate and net zero policy given the rise in misinformation and agitators over the past five years. 

More worryingly still is the total lack of clarity as to what will be required beyond money to make a lot of these policies work properly – many will need vast human resources to function, and understanding this is fundamental to accurate costing. The fact For A Fair Deal has ignored the need for both chicken and the egg has been flagged by a number of environmental groups and campaigners. Meanwhile, flatlining support for the Lib Dems, despite bold green ideas, could be a reflection of a recent study showing just four in ten Britons will vote based on environmental policy. 

More on General Election 2024:

Reform, energy security and an end of Net Zero

Lacking detail: Labour’s manifesto falls short on commitment

The UK environment deserves better than the Conservative manifesto


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