The Conservatives have pledged to maintain the UK’s climate change commitments through enhanced clean technology and energy efficiency funding, but the Party’s manifesto also proposes continued support for the North Sea oil and gas industry and an additional focus on fracking.
The 88-page document, launched by Prime Minister Theresa May this morning (18 May), places a large emphasis on the critical role of the private sector, promising to “create the conditions where successful businesses can emerge and grow”.
The manifesto outlines a plan to “lead international action against climate change”, citing the importance of technologies such as battery storage and offshore wind to help the country meet its 2050 climate change targets to reduce emissions by 60% from 1990 levels.
Friends of the Earth (FoE) has said the commitment sends a “strong message” to both Donald Trump and opponents of climate action in the UK. “The Conservatives have comprehensively rejected the siren voices calling for the UK to walk away from its international and domestic commitments to tackle climate change,” FoE campaigner Dave Timms said.
But the decision to continue support for the North Sea oil and gas industry is likely to upset environmental groups, as will the commitment to develop fracking in the country.
Green businesses hoping for a timescale on the delivery of either the UK’s proposed Clean Growth Plan and 25-Year Plan for the Environment will be left disappointed, with the former failing to receive a single mention in the document. Also missing from the text is a reference to the UK’s strategy to address illegal levels of air pollution.
“The lack of policies to deal with the dirty air crisis is astounding,” Timms said. “Polluting car manufacturers will sleep easy knowing that they have been let off the hook, while children with asthma will continue to choke. This is a national disgrace which can’t be hidden behind planting a few trees.”
Low-carbon Industrial Strategy
The Conservatives pledge to create a modern Industrial Strategy that ensuring that industry has access to “reliable, cheap and clean power”. To meet these objectives, funding is earmarked for R&D into battery storage and electric vehicles (EVs).
The manifesto dismisses the commercial viability of large-scale onshore wind, but offers support for offshore turbines, along with the development of projects in the remote islands of Scotland. The Tories will look to ensure almost every vehicle to be zero-emission by 2050, reaffirming the pre-election pledge to invest £600m on low-emission transport by the end of the decade.
RenewableUK’s chief executive Hugh McNeal said: “Renewables can offer much to the next Government: these modern, game-changing technologies have resolved the decades-old problem of delivering an affordable, secure supply of low-carbon electricity. It’s good to see the Conservative manifesto focussing on energy policy outcomes like these. Our industries can help a future Conservative government to deliver these and more.”
Support for oil and (shale) gas
The next Conservative Government will ensure that the oil and gas sector plays a “critical role” in domestic energy supply and boosting the economy. In contrast to Labour and Lib Dem manifesto pledges to ban fracking, the Conservatives plan to develop the shale industry in Britain, but only if “rigorous” environmental protections are upheld.
A new Shale Environmental Regulator will be established to provide governance and accountability. The proposed Shale Wealth Fund, meanwhile, will be changed so that larger revenues from fracking go directly to communities that host the extraction sites.
“The mantra of ‘take back control’ will ring hollow for communities who face having fracking forced down their throats and their rights stripped away,” Timms said.
Protect the natural environment
The manifesto reiterates a vow to become “the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it”. It mentions that the upcoming 25-Year Environment Plan will allow the UK to “take back control” of green legislation after the EU departure, but fails to provide a specific timescale for delivery.
The Party insists it will deliver on its commitment to improve flood defences and preserve the marine environment. The manifesto highlights a plan to work with the fishing industry to introduce a new regime for commercial fishing that will preserve and increase fish stocks.
“We will work with our Overseas Territory governments to create a Blue Belt of marine protection in their precious waters, establishing the largest marine sanctuaries anywhere in the world,” the manifesto says.
Energy efficiency measures
“Our ambition is that the UK should have the lowest energy costs in Europe, both for households and businesses,” the text reads. “So as we upgrade our energy infrastructure, we will do it in an affordable way, consistent with that ambition.”
The Party pledges a consultation on the extension of the “safeguard tariff” cap for micro-businesses. It will launch an independent review into the cost of energy, aiming to secure low prices, along with a reliable supply, while helping the the UK to meet its 2050 climate change objectives.
A new energy efficiency scheme will be set up to help large businesses install measures to reduce energy usage and bills. The next Tory Government will offer smart meters to every business and household by the end of 2020, and commit to upgrade all homes to an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C by 2030.
The Conservatives are the third of the major parties to publish its manifesto ahead of the general election, after the Liberal Democrats and Labour released their respective 2017 manifestos earlier this week.
Stay tuned to edie for full coverage off the other party manifestos along with our own, exclusive green policy coverage in the build up to the election on 8 June.