What the parties' manifestos say on climate change ahead of UK general election
Party manifestos are not just for the campaign, or Christmas, they outline the new government’s policy priorities for five years. I’ve been able to compare and contrast the wide variety on offer this election thanks to the work of CarbonBrief.org
The heightened threat of rampant, and as yet unchecked, climate change has motivated most parties to explain their approach to net-zero emissions, address climate change, frame the effects of Brexit, decide whether to pass a new climate Act, how to phase out fossil fuels, which renewable technologies to back, what their stance on nuclear power and Carbon Capture and Storage will be, and much more.
The big question hanging over energy is how to pay for costs of change. The downside is the cost of doing nothing.
Here’s a flavour of the top line issue, net zero.
The Tories say they would lead the global fight against climate change by delivering on their world-leading target of net zero by 2050, as advised by the independent Committee on Climate Change.
Labour would develop the recommendations of its ‘30 by 2030’ report to put the UK on track for a net-zero carbon energy system during the 2030s – and go faster if credibly possible.
The SNP would demand the UK accelerates its actions to meet Scotland’s climate change targets – the toughest legal targets in the world – of a 75 per cent reduction in emissions by 2035, net zero no later than 2040 and net zero of all emissions by 2045, because Scotland, like the rest of the world, faces a climate emergency.
The Liberal Democrats want a 10-year emergency programme to cut greenhouse gas emissions substantially straightaway and phase out emissions from the remaining hard-to-treat sectors by 2045 at the latest.
The Greens would get Scotland and the UK on track to reduce climate change emissions to net zero by 2030.
The Brexit Party makes no mention of any climate change measures.
These party priorities dictate how energy policy should adapt. Now to dig a bit deeper into their contrasting approaches.
In the Highlands, work on renewables, coping with Brexit and how our clean power can be transmitted to the cities further south is of prime importance.
The Tories focus on offshore renewables and enabling floating wind farms with a target of 40GW by 2030. They also see a long future ahead for oil and gas but construct a transformational sector deal.
They would support gas from hydrogen production and nuclear energy, including fusion, as important parts of the energy system alongside increasing commitments to renewables.
In a pitch to north-east Scotland they commit £800 million to build the first fully deployed carbon capture and storage (CCS) cluster by the mid-2020s. As they champion private enterprise, they would not curb National Grid plc despite proven outages in England and Wales or lack of capacity to serve the islands of Scotland.
Labour, on the other hand, would nationalise National Grid plc. They oppose fracking and condemn the cuts in renewables support by recent LibDem/Tory and outright Tory administrations.
Jeremy Corbyn wants a Green Industrial Revolution that includes new nuclear power “for energy security”. In so doing, their target is 90 per cent of electricity and 50 per cent of heat from renewables and low-carbon sources by 2030. They would place a levy on oil and gas to fund the transition.
The SNP cites 75 per cent of Scotland’s electricity in 2018 coming from renewables and doubling the export of renewables to the rest of the UK. Although energy is a reserved matter to Westminster, the party promises a Scottish Green Energy Deal delivering the long-term certainty needed to support tidal and wave power and allowing onshore wind to compete for ‘contracts for difference’, the current UK mechanism to support low-carbon electricity generation.
It would ban fracking for good and will stop any new nuclear power in Scotland. It clashes with Labour in saying all oil revenues should directly fund climate emergency measures. The SNP backs the CCS proposal to be based on the Peterhead gas fired power station. They would pressurise UK government to deploy CCS quickly to ensure Scotland is not denied this opportunity again.
The LibDems complain that the Tories are not on track to meet UK climate change targets. They want to see energy policy as part of the EU climate strategy, as does the SNP. They want to protect communities negatively affected by fossil fuel phase out and seek an end to restrictions on funding for solar and wind power with more interconnectors to carry the product.
As for CCS, they support it but add that new low-carbon processes are also needed for cement and steel production.
The Greens here in Scotland and their sister party in England and Wales see the climate emergency requiring a 10-year plan which removes subsidies from oil and gas and applies a carbon tax based on the places where fuel is burnt.
No new nuclear is needed, they argue, but an acceleration of wind power to 70 per cent of UK generation is needed by 2030. CCS needs to be deployed quickly.
All in all, there is greater detail on energy policy to be found in the manifestos of the opposition parties, except for the Brexit Party.
Scotland leads the way in deploying renewables but is dependent on UK policy aims. Therefore, this election is more critical for our future than ever.
You can search for yourself any of these issues in greater detail on Carbonbrief.org