If you're like us, you'll be feeling a little jittery about tomorrow's election. There are so many factors to consider, from the economy, to the NHS, the dreaded B-word (yes, Brexit), and sustainability.
We can't profess to be experts on the first three, but we thought it might be helpful to summarise the main parties' manifestos on climate change. We hope it's helpful!
Before we get into the crux of it, two things to note:
1. The UK only produces 1% of global emissions. Nonetheless, we are seen as a major player and our policies have ripple effects globally so it's important that we lead by example.
2. Production (currently how we measure) vs. Consumption (how much we actually use) are two very different things. The Labour party aim to shift how we measure in the UK to a consumption-basis i.e. if we outsource TV production to China, that shouldn't mean we wash our hands of our carbon footprint, but instead we apportion responsibility more fairly.
3. For the purpose of today, we've focused on the two parties leading the race - the Conservative and Labour parties. A deeper look into the other parties' (and individuals') manifestos would absolutely give you a more holistic view than this short blog.
THE HEADLINE POLICY
The Labour Party's headline stance on climate change is to deliver nearly 90% of electricity and 50% of heat from renewable and low-carbon sources by 2030”, on track for “a net-zero-carbon energy system within the 2030s”.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives have stuck with their target of net zero emissions by 2050, without making shorter-term commitments to measure or judge progress by.
Whilst the Labour Party's plans are far more ambitious, they are measurable and achieve what we need to in order to meaningfully contribute to the global fight against climate change. The Conservative party takes a longer-term, less ambitious but easier-to-achieve position (although we won't really be able to measure their progress).
How will the Labour Party get to their goal? Well, they've promised 7,000 new offshore wind turbines (3x increase) and 2,000 new onshore wind turbines. In addition, they vouch to install enough solar panels "to cover 22,000 football pitches". This would actually create more useable energy than we currently use from fossil-fuel sources, but it's in anticipation for the rise in electric-powered and demise of petrolium-fuelled cars.
The Conservative Party vouch to create an extra 31.5GW of offshore wind by 2030. They don't mention onshore wind or solar in their manifesto though (technologies that have been stymied since 2015). The party therefore commits to adding around 1/3 of the renewable power that Labour does. However, the cost to the UK of implementing it will be proportionately more affordable too. The Conservatives' preference is to pursue natural gas extraction, whilst investing £800m into carbon capture technology.
The Labour Party intends to capture heat waste from the industry and retrofit homes, ensure new homes have a net zero impact by 2022 - all of which will reduce heating demand by 20%.
The Conservative Party have limited all detail in this part of their manifesto to creating "environmentally friendly homes". Unfortunately there are no details as to quantum, timing or targets.
The Conservative Party pledges to plant 30m trees by 2025. Whilst this sounds impressive, it's worth noting that they only planted 1/3 of the 11m trees it promised in 2015 and still lags significantly behind the levels recommended by the Government's independent climate advisors, if we have any hope of reaching net zero by 2050.
The Labour Party has a far more ambitious (but criticised) target of 2bn trees by 2040. This has raised eyebrows because it means planting 200 trees a minute for the next 20 years. Is that even possible? For every doubter, there is a supporter looking for evidence that this could be achievable - one man in Northumberland who has launched a private woodland has planted more than 2 million trees in 12 years.
However, something both parties have ignored and must address is not only planting new trees but protecting the woods and forests we already have to prevent huge deforestation which undoes so much of the good.
So, if climate change is the main focus for you, then Labour over Conservative is a no-brainer. In a world of fake news, fake promises and unfulfilled commitments, everything has to be taken with a pinch of salt. The most ambitious plan isn't necessarily the most achievable... but we absolutely shouldn't settle for something which we know isn't good enough to meet global targets. Together, we have to all keep striving for better for our planet and our people.