Election manifestos: Labour tops Friends of the Earth’s climate and nature league table
Climate and ecological crisis must be at the top of next government's agenda, says Friends of the Earth
Friends of the Earth Media, 7 December 2019
The Labour party has come out top in Friends of the Earth’s environmental assessment of the main UK-wide party manifestos, with the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats also putting forward a wide-range of significant policies to respond to the climate and ecological crisis.
The assessment, published today, looked at the manifestos of the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats and Green parties. These were scored against Friends of the Earth’s election asks – which covered ten areas including, climate targets, energy, transport, food and nature. The manifestos were marked out of 45.
The final assessment saw Labour, Lib Dems and Greens all marked highly, but with the Labour Party given a slightly higher score overall. The Conservative Party scored poorly: its manifesto was judged to be missing significant commitments in numerous areas, inadequate policies in others, and actively damaging policies in transport.
• Labour: 33
• Green: 31
• Liberal Democrat: 30
• Conservatives: 5.5
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.
“Many of the policies that Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Green party have put forward are commensurate with, or striving to meet, the challenges we face. It is disappointing we have not yet seen the same urgency, ambition or consistency from the Conservative party.
“We don’t have time for yet more dither and delay – the next government needs to urgently start the work of transforming our economy and infrastructure, and restoring nature to deliver a safer, brighter future.”
Friends of the Earth sent the parties an initial score following publication of their manifestos. They were then allowed further time to provide additional pledges, clarifications or restatements of existing policies, which might have been left out of manifestos but form part of the party's policies for government.
A letter sent exclusively to Friends of the Earth from four Labour Shadow Secretaries of State (and published with the scoring) went further than the manifesto in key areas. It included a strong preference for a frequent flyer levy to manage demand for aviation, promised to review the Aviation National Policy Statement against much tougher carbon targets - and said expansion at Heathrow airport would be cancelled if it wasn't consistent with these targets. The letter also pledged that a Labour government would take funds directly from the road building programme for public transport projects.
The Lib Dems set out addition pledges to its manifesto in a letter to Friends of the Earth recommitting to the policies in its previously published Climate Emergency policy document. However, the Green's did not provide any additional clarification or restate previous pledges in a number of policy areas ahead of Friends of the Earth's deadline.
"Labour’s manifesto contains strong, funded policies on home energy efficiency and renewables. This was boosted by significant additional pledges during the campaign on plans for tree planting, food policy, public transport and cycling - as well as a commitment to strong environmental law and enforcement.
"The Lib Dems and Greens both scored similarly and had a suite of policies which were consistently judged to meet, and sometimes exceed, Friends of the Earth's policy demands. Both had especially strong policies on home energy efficiency and renewables, but scored slightly lower than Labour overall.
"Despite the Conservative Party manifesto offering decent policies on plastics and agricultural subsidies and restatement of the moratorium on fracking, in sector after sector its commitments were invariably weaker than the other parties, entirely absent or just plain bad.
“Their manifesto consistently failed to step up to address the climate and nature emergencies, which are hurting communities right now and will deliver catastrophe in the future. We were concerned that they failed to restate commitments to some existing positive government policies."
Earlier this week Friends of the Earth published a list of over 1000 general election candidates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who have taken a Friends of the Earth pledge to make the climate crisis a deal-breaker in how they would vote in parliament if elected.
Notes to editors:
1. Friends of the Earth is independent of all political parties and does not endorse or favour any particular party. We are calling on all political parties to adopt these policies in their manifestos and will hold them to account for any promises made following the election.
And here is an excellent new report demonstrating how to deliver the Green New Deal
As is apparent from the cover, the foreword has been written by Caroline Lucas, who hopes to once again be MP for Brighton Pavillion next week.
The report answers a question that no one else has tackled, which is who might buy the £100 billion of bonds that might need to be issued each year to fund the Green New Deal. Unless that question can be answered the Green New Deal can't happen. We think we have the answer.
The press release on the report says:
Funding the Green New Deal
How we could Save for the Planet
Funding the £100 billion a year needed for the Green New Deal from UK ISA and pension savers
____________Almost everyone now realises that we need a Green New Deal if we are to tackle the climate crisis. And almost without exception politicians now realise that this will require that we borrow to fund the investment in the future of our society that the Green New Deal represents. But there has, to date, been a big unanswered question about this borrowing. No one has actually said who it is that will buy the bonds that will have to be sold to fund the Green New Deal.
In a new report entitled 'Funding the Green New Deal: How we could Save for the Planet', Richard Murphy and Colin Hines, who are both members of the Group that wrote the first Green New Deal report in 2008, seek to answer that question. As they show, over 80% of UK financial wealth is held in tax incentivised accounts, whether they be pensions or ISAs. As a result it is to these sources that they look for the funding. What they suggest is that by simple changes to the tax reliefs applicable on both types of account up to £100 billion of funds can be directed towards the Green New Deal each year. This is as much funding as anyone suggests might be needed at present.
The changes are simple. With regard to ISAs it is suggested that the government should back the issue of Green New Deal bonds paying interest at an average rate of 1.85%, which is the average UK government cost of borrowing at present, and it is only these that should be available to ISA savers in the future. This could raise up to £70 billion a year in funds.
With regard to pensions, in exchange for the tax relief given on pension contributions, which currently cost £54 billion a year, the requirement would be that 25% of all new pension contributions would be invested in Green New Deal related activity.
Taken together the measures would ensure that tax reliefs are aligned to society's need for a Green New Deal.
Caroline Lucas, who has been the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion since 2010 and who is standing again in the current election, has written a foreword to the report. In it she says:
"As Murphy and Hines remind us, people investing in pensions and savings will largely be from older generations who can thus play a vital part in the Green New Deal. They can save for their own benefit and at the same time benefit all of us, and in particular, younger generations. This inter-generational rebalancing could be another key element of the Green New Deal, and merits further investigation. Working together, we can create a better future. For all of us, and for the planet we share."
The report is available at: https://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/GNDFunding1219.pdf
There is growing consensus on the urgent need for a Green New Deal to transform
our economy and society to meet the challenges of the climate and nature crises,
and to reverse inequality. There is also growing recognition that it is both sensible
and necessary for the government to borrow to invest in the future of our society, so
that we can modernise our economy and move beyond fossil fuels. An economic
system based on endless credit fuelling endless emissions while flooding wealth up
to those who already have most has driven us to the point of climate, ecological and
social collapse. Now we must find ways to rein in the power of big finance and
channel credit responsibly to where it is needed, into a Green New Deal.
With even the International Monetary Fund’s former chief economist, Olivier
Blanchard, acknowledging that with interest rates at record lows, now is the time for
governments to borrow to invest, Richard Murphy and Colin Hines ask who could
provide the funds for that investment. There is a healthy market for government
bonds but, as they show, ordinary savers could also play a vital role in channelling
investment into Green Bonds. According to this briefing, over 80 per cent of UK
financial wealth is held in accounts that benefit from a tax incentive of some kind,
whether they be pensions or ISAs. They suggest that by making small changes to the
tax reliefs due on both types of account, funds can be redirected into Green Bonds
and towards the Green New Deal, providing both a safe place for our pensions and
savings, and the means to invest in our collective future.
As Murphy and Hines remind us, people investing in pensions and savings will largely
be from older generations who can thus play a vital part in the Green New Deal.
They can save for their own benefit and at the same time benefit all of us, and in
particular, younger generations. This inter-generational rebalancing could be
another key element of the Green New Deal, and merits further investigation.
Working together, we can create a better future. For all of us, and for the planet we
Green party parliamentary candidate for Brighton Pavilion