What does each party's policy mean for the environment?

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 24 April 2015

I decided that, with the general election so close, it might be helpful to take a look at what each party’s policy means for the environment. I do not mean this to be exhaustive but it should cover the bases.

Obviously, some of these concern devolved issues. However, given the way environmental policy overlaps, and with parties like the SNP saying they will vote on ‘English only’ issues, I have included them.


Ed Miliband has previously stressed his commitment to confront climate change and, to be fair, it is listed in the manifesto as a threat to the UK along with terrorism and the spread of disease.

On the Paris talks later this year it says: “We will make the case for ambitious emissions targets for all countries, strengthened every five years on the basis of a scientific assessment of the progress towards the below two degree goal. And we will push for a goal of net zero global emissions in the second half of this century, for transparent and universal rules for measuring, verifying and reporting emissions, and for an equitable deal in which richer countries provide support to poorer nations in combatting climate change.”

Beyond that, it says Labour will:

-          Keep Britain’s forests in public ownership and promote access to green spaces in local planning.

-          Support the work of the Natural Capital Committee to protect and improve wildlife habitats and green spaces, and make them an important part of Britain’s thriving tourism industry.

-          Commit to dealing with the problems of air pollution by giving local authorities the powers they need, backed up by a national framework.

The Conservatives

The Tories have a pretty big section on rural pledges but less on climate change.

It says they will:

-          Keep Britain’s forests in trust for the nation and to plant another 11 million trees.

-          Provide comprehensive maps of all open-access green space to facilitate access to the countryside.

-          The party will launch a programme of ‘pocket parks’, protect the Green Belt, and maintain national protections for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and other environmental designations.

-          Review the case for higher Fixed Penalty Notices for littering and allowing councils to tackle small-scale fly-tipping through Fixed Penalties.

-          Protect hunting, shooting and fishing, for all the benefits to individuals, the environment and the rural economy that the activities bring.

-          Replace locally any biodiversity lost in the construction of HS2.

-          The Natural Capital Committee will be extended to at least the end of the next Parliament and will develop a 25-year plan to restore the UK’s biodiversity.

-          Invest £300m in cutting light pollution from new roads, commit to more tunnelling, build better noise barriers and help to restore lost habitat.


​The SNP has a manifesto with arguably less focus on the environment than others, with  pledges focusing on fishing quotas, a ‘zero waste’ strategy and food levies. It will:

-          Ensure fishing quotas are managed in the common interest and will work to ensure the discard ban is implemented in a way that does not damage the viability of the fleet and is workable for fishermen.

-          Seek full devolved responsibility over all food levies to support the promotion of food and drink, so they can build on a record that has seen growth in the sector in Scotland of 20.8 per cent compared to 8.6 per cent in the UK.

-          Scrutinise UK government actions at an EU level to ensure that farming and fishing industries receive full backing and support.

-          Take forward Scotland’s £1.3bn rural development programme.

-          Work to ensure the discard ban is workable for the fishing fleet.

-          Continue to develop its zero waste strategy, supporting a range of initiatives, for example the ongoing pilot project for reverse vending machines to encourage rewards for recycling.

The Lib Dems

The Lib Dems section on the environment is frankly enormous, so I have tried to capture the main elements.

They will:

-          Ensure that protecting the natural environment becomes a core commitment of every government department and agency.

-          Improve UK enforcement of the EU Birds and Habitats Directive.

-          Bring forward a package of measures to protect bees and other pollinators, including legal protection for bumblebee nests.

-          Establish an Office for Environmental Responsibility scrutinising the Government’s efforts to meet environmental targets.

-          Consult on a National Air Quality Plan which will involve plans on low emissions zones, encouraging walking and cycling, review MOT processes, and supporting EU air quality targets.

-          Introduce a Green Transport Act, including a National Plan to improve dramatically Britain’s air quality by 2020.

-          Use regulation both nationally and in the EU to promote sustainable communities, farming and the natural environment design where reparability, reuse and recyclability are prioritised, and to reduce packaging waste.

-          Encourage the growth of anaerobic digestion to produce biogas for heat and transport, and sustainable fertiliser, working with Local Authorities to extend separate food waste collections to at least 90 per cent of homes by 2020.

-          Plant at least an additional tree for every child born – about 750,000 every year – as part of a major afforestation plan.

The Scottish Green Party

The Greens are a trickier bunch to summarise given the majority of their policies end up relating to the environment in one way or another.

The general plan is to stimulate growth while protecting the environment. It calls this “green industrialisation”, which is just like normal industrialisation, except nicer.

Here is a list of plans released today:

-          A transition to a jobs-rich economy which respects the environment.

-          Investment in the homes, transport and energy we need for a low-carbon future.

-          The world’s most ambitious home energy efficiency programme, slashing energy bills and carbon emissions, creating thousands of jobs and helping end the fuel poverty crisis.

-          Sustainable expansion in industries such as quality food production, clean chemical sciences, digital and creative industries, medical and life sciences.

-          Support for independent small retail, tourism and sports, waste reuse and recycling, shipbuilding, textiles and design.

-          Investment in marine renewables to use the skills, engineering expertise and wealth of natural resources around our shores.

-          Support for sustainable City Deals.

I hope that is some use. Of course, with a hung parliament looking likely, any of these policies could change during negotiations – but I'm afraid you're on your own there.

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Liam Kirkaldy



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