13 April 2010
Environmental Policies from Key Parties - Part 1
I have purposely started by reviewing key environmental areas and international development other than climate change first, as they are just as (if not more) important than global warming. In particular, I have looked at the following key areas - water, wastewater, pollution, solid waste, biodiversity and international development.
- Working towards zero waste - incentivising families that recycle and put a floor under landfill tax until 2020 to give business long term certainty to invest in new forms of waste disposal - that sounds like a cop-out to me that will not force businesses to reduce landfill waste
- Introduce greater competition in water industry to reduce bills and improve efficiency and innovation plus reform to improve environmental standards - once again this seems a bit wishy-washy and may lead to reduced service unless it is linked to meeting specific environmental targets
- Claims to have called for Marine Act that Labour introduced and wants further reforms to Common Fisheries Policy to protect fisherman and fish stocks even more
- "Science led policy" on badger control in TB infected areas (whatever science led means!)
- Broader ecosystem approach to landscape as a whole as well as targeted approach to protected habitats and species
- Intends to introduce a system of conservation credits in England as "an incentive to invest in biodiversity"
- £200 million of funding for local authorities to invest in greener transport such as bus and cycling from Transport Innovation Fund without need to introduce a Congestion Charge in regions. The money is already ring fenced by the Labour Government, however removing the need to charge a Congestion Charge will create a marginal cost for Government were it to actually release the funds
- Would seek to reverse bans on hunting with dogs and hare coursing via free vote for MPs
- Committed to 0.7% of Gross National income as aid by 2013
- Empower people in poor countries as to how to spend aid, and will spend £500 million a year to tackle malaria
- Block GM crops until shown to be safe
- Has a zero waste policy with comprehensive recycling schemes and support the recycling industry with target of 60% recycled in 5 years (UK is already at 50% so this isn't very ambitious)
- Via a Waste Avoidance and Recycling Act impose differential charges for short life products, ie plastic costs more than glass to dispose, and legislate minimum recycled content into some products
- Ban new waste incinerators and phase out old ones, but invest in anearobic digesters
- Eliminate plastic throwaway bags from shops
- Ban GM crops
- Get out of Common Fisheries Policy, or at least shift to a more sustainable basis (difference between main website and policy website)
- There is a 404 error on their "Environment and Animal Welfare Page" - however, from their main policy section, the Greens would ban factory farming, cruel bloodsports, badger culling and promote organic farming and vegetarian food
- Energy: massive investment in renewables to create 80,000 jobs; retrofitting houses, schools and hospitals to make them more energy efficient; phasing out of nuclear power; removal of incentives from biofuels; shifting subsidies from nuclear and coal power to renewable energy
- Transport: focus on walking then cycling then public transport, especially light rail and trams, then cars plus legislate to get more commercial transport onto rail and water and away from roads and air and congestion charging
- International development: increase aid to 1% of Gross National income and cancellation of debt to 52 poorest countries - I think it's "and" but I may be double-counting of debt cancellation as part of aid which is the case of most political policies, but frankly there's not much detail here
- Biodiversity is important - 2 landmark acts the Countryside and Right of Ways Act and the Marine and Coastal Access Act, 2 new National Parks
- £3.9 billion Rural Development Programme which includes an agri-environment Environmental Stewardship Scheme
- Extended Green Belt and focused on developing Brownfield Sites for developments
- Assess GM crops on case-by-case basis
- Targetting investment in public transport, green technologies for cars with £400 million fund to develop new technology and invested money in schemes to get cycling into urban environment spending £60 million over last 5 years and getting 500,000 kids doing Bikeability training by 2012
- Banned fox hunting and hare coursing; banned animal testing of cosmetics and barren cages for chickens - very committed to animal welfare
- Campaigning to ban illegal trade in ivory, polar bears, bluefin tuna and bobcats, while consulting on banning of cages for gamebirds and wild animals in circuses
- Working for fairer global society and committed in law to spending 0.7% of Gross National income on aid to support poorest nations, and working to address the 8 Millennium development goals to combate extreme poverty by 2015
- Under Labour, UK has been world's second biggest bilateral donor in fight against HIV/Aids, targetting malaria via delivery of 50 million bednets by 2013 and spending £100 million to fight polio around the world
- "Zero waste" policy - no more landfill for solid waste, with a rise in recycling, changes to packaging regulations and increase in use of anearobic digesters
- Introduction of smart meters in areas where issues of water availability
- Target water companies to reduce wastage of water
- Cancel third runway at Heathrow to target pollution
- Ban commercial production of GM crops
- Revenue neutral road user pricing to reduce congestion and pollution in urban environment (I know I am thick but I don't know what this means, but I assume it is the same as the congestion charge for London)
- They also hint at issues of bird, animal and plant habitats but don't specify what they will do about it unless changes to local planning decisions is meant to address that. This doesn't really target biodiversity but does make the landscape more open and free.
- Their policy on international development has not been specified and there is currently just a consultation document dated February 2010, so this is not reviewable.
In summary, there is some detail in place, however I was disappointed at how lightweight the Liberal Democrats were on this area when they really could have scored some good points-of-difference. Perhaps it will come in later campaigning, but there was not much on their website on this, and it could be too late for me to change my vote.
As a result, it was a contest between the Conservatives and Labour on this point as the Greens were good on some areas but less credible on the detail and the international perspective - a lot of negative and regressive policies rather than adaptive and genuinely practical solutions (in my opinion).
I think much of the issue with the Greens is that their agenda was perhaps not very radical as the good policy ideas have been cherry picked by the main political parties already, so the only things they can show a difference on are minor areas and more radical stances, eg bringing buses under public ownership (I assume that's what is meant by "re-regulation") and banning nuclear power, while banning blood sports is good (if a bit late as a policy) but phasing out industrial farming and food production is a ridiculous policy in the real world. Their positions on animal welfare are basically the same as Labour and the Liberal Democrats, and even the Conservatives have some interest in these areas, while recycling and pollution is already going quite well under Labour, so basically the Greens were not as visionary as I had expected nor as ambitious or aggressive enough for me with their "green" ideas so scored less well when compared to the Conservatives and Labour. I wonder whether they are trying to seem more sensible and so electable, therefore they have lost some of their radical appeal.
As in many things in life, it depends what you think is most important - Labour definitely are strong on their animal welfare credentials while the Conservatives were better on the International Development - I liked the specifics of the malaria fund. I couldn't find much about waste management and recycling on the Labour website, except stuff in the Climate Change debate which I think misses a trick. However, what it comes down to is Labour have very strong credibility due to what they have already done, but I was less sure about their future ideas. I know Labour wants to be seen as a safe pair of hands and is campaigning on more of the same, but like many voters I pay little attention between elections so I need to be explained the future now, so Labour should not rest on its past environmental achievements, because that's been and (I am sorry to say) had largely passed me by.
Overall though, I have to say all parties were a bit weak and woolly which just shows they are not really that interested in green issues, which is a disappointment for me. So overall, a thumbs down to everyone here and I hope whoever wins will do a lot better than the little that is to be found on their websites, or the Minister of the Environment could be a really cushy, easy-going job for the next Government.
If I had to give my vote on the basis of what I have read so far on these topics, it would be in the following order of preference: Labour, Conservatives, Greens then Liberal Democrats. I score the Conservatives above the Greens because I think nuclear power has to be in the mix and factory farming (while often really horrible) does keep food prices down, but they do less well in my mind on animal welfare; therefore, you could argue that my view is coloured by a prejudice here against the credibility of the Green Party, and you are welcome to push the Tories down that list, although the Liberal Democrats have to come bottom as they don't seem to have completed the work yet (which I cannot quite believe).
Hopefully, there will be more of interest in everyone's policies on Global Warming and Energy...
The parties have now all launched their manifestoes - why I don't know as they seem to say just what is already on the web without the need to fell a few forests. I have put a few notes below for any additional points of interest regarding green issues:
Conservatives: will stop restart of whaling, destroy stockpiles of ivory and stop trade in ivory, campaign to end deforestation of rainforests and ban illegal wood coming into UK under any guise
Greens: nothing new in their policies, but I did do their policy matchmaker and only scored 50% on it which I suspect means that I am not best matched by the Green Party's policies as it was only my aversion to ID cards that got me up to 50%
Labour: ban illegal wood coming into UK
Liberal Democrats: work to stop deforestation to protect biodiversity (as well as climate change) and ban imports of illegal chopped down timber; 0.7% GNI on development aid; work to tackle HIV/aids, malaria and TB; target clean water supply in developing world (my comment: how about sanitation as well!!); cancellation of 3rd world debt; funds available to develop viable social welfare systems in developing world; stop loss of habitats and so biodiversity in UK
I think that this means that Liberal Democrats are no longer bottom of the pile and I would put them equal with the Conservatives but behind the Labour Party.