Election manifestos: the scores are in
There are lots of issues close to our hearts at this election. It's clear that the next 5 years are going to be crucial for protecting the environment.
Overall when we totted up the scores (from 0 to 3) for each policy the Greens came out well ahead, followed by Labour, then Lib Dems, with the Conservatives some way behind (though this doesn't take account of additional pledges made in a letter to us by Lib Dem leader Tim Farron on 5 June).
The next government will have unprecedented choices to make about how to protect people’s health, rejuvenate our wildlife and green spaces, and meet our international commitments to tackle climate change.
For too long action on the environment has been seen as something that will only benefit future generations or is put off as a "nice to have". But the harm done by environmental problems such as air pollution and climate change is costing lives now.
At this General Election we called on all the political parties to present manifestos which promise to ensure that our local, national and international environment gets better, year on year.
Our demands cover 6 broad areas: climate and energy, Brexit and environmental law, waste, air pollution, food and farming, and finally rights and justice – 16 policies in all.
We emailed our manifesto to all existing MPs before Parliament was dissolved asking them to ensure their manifesto was fit for people and the planet. As a politically impartial organisation our aim is to ensure all parties have the strongest possible policies on the environment.
As the main party manifestos were published we dug out our fine-toothed combs and got to work. For the sake of practicality we restricted ourselves to the 4 parties which had an MP when the election was called and stand in more than one country in the UK – Liberal Democrats, Labour, Conservatives and the Greens.
All the parties made solid promises to tackle climate change at home and support the Paris Climate Agreement – so no matter who wins, Donald Trump won’t find an ally in the UK government if he pulls out of it. They all aspire to being international leaders on climate change.
But who has the policies to match that aspiration? Labour, Greens and Lib Dems all scored well on policies to clean up our energy system and support renewables. The Conservatives somewhat less so.
Labour and the Greens also offer impressive and comprehensive policies to protect the environmental legislation built up during our membership of the EU and ensure it can be properly enforced here.
The Lib Dems stood out when it comes to issues of food, waste and farming. They promise to redirect farming subsidies to activities such as flood prevention and countryside protection, introduce a Zero Waste Act and a National Food Strategy which includes sustainable diets.
Meanwhile the Greens have the toughest policies to tackle our air pollution scandal. Lib Dems scored highly here too. Labour promised a new Clean Air Act, which is great, but legislation takes time to pass and our towns and cities are suffering illegal levels of air pollution right now. However they were considerably better than the Conservatives, who seemed to focus on planting trees to tackle this urgent public health emergency… while building more roads.
Labour was the only party to make a strong statement on taking our fair share of refugees from disasters such as famine (which are increasingly impacted by climate change).
Despite a laudable promise to leave the environment better than they inherit it, the Conservatives also fell short when it came to the specifics of protecting our environmental laws during Brexit – a continuing commitment to a one-in-two-out deregulation rule is a major problem here.
Labour and the Conservatives disappointed on tackling waste, focusing on plastic bottles and litter respectively.
They need to do a lot better.
There’s no nice way of saying this, the Conservative’s policy on fracking is awful. An undemocratic and desperate set of policies to over-rule local communities and rig the planning system in favour of this dirty fossil fuel. The other parties are united in their opposition to fracking.
However there are still almost 2 weeks left of the election campaign. We hope that by scoring their manifestos and publishing the results they will respond by addressing some of the policy omissions, clarifying any confusion or accepting perhaps that tougher action is needed in some areas.
We’ll keep our ears and eyes open (and check our social media feeds) for new statements or pledges on these issues from the parties which might make a difference to these scores, and update them if necessary.
UPDATE Friday 2 June
In response to our initial blog (Friday 26 May) the co-leaders of the Green Party – Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley sent us a letter setting out a series of impressive policy commitments including on pesticides, waste, the Lobbying Act, environmental refugees and farming, clarifying and adding to those already published in their manifesto.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote to us making important commitments and with useful additional detail. Most significantly he promised to end illegal levels of air pollution in 2018, a key pledge we asked all parties to include in their manifestos.
He also promised to publish a plan to meet UK carbon targets by the end of the year and will work at home and abroad to keep global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees. And if elected Labour would “introduce legal targets on how we will improve our natural environment” and back sustainable diets.
The Lib Dems took the opportunity of the hustings organised by Greener UK coalition on Tuesday to make a very welcome statement of their concern about the impact the Lobbying Act is having on the ability of charities to speak out in issues of public interest including the environment.
They are now committed to back reform of the Act. Elsewhere their leader Tim Farron also set out his determination to keep global temperate rises due to climate change to below 1.5 degrees.
The Conservatives have been less forthcoming. Minster Therese Coffey publicly stated that environmental regulations inherited from the EU will be fully transferred to UK law and exempt from deeply worrying deregulatory rules known as "1 in, 2 out".
However this welcome statement was undermined by an article by her own Secretary of State, Andrea Leadsom who wrote on the Conservative Home website that once EU environmental law is translated into UK law “we will be able to prioritise scrapping unnecessary burdens on farmers”. We have taken these new pledges, clarifications and commitments, and added them to our initial scoring of the manifestos [PDF - 2 June].
The Green Party has leapt further ahead of the other parties and comes out just shy of full marks (with 46/48 points). Labour have significantly improved their score (to 34/48) and overall now perform slightly better than the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems have made some welcome new commitments which have improved their score (now 32/48). Unfortunately the Conservatives haven’t added to their initial poor showing (still 11/48).
FURTHER UPDATE: Monday 5 June
We have now also received a letter from Lib Dem leader Tim Farron setting out welcome additional detail on several of our manifesto asks, including his support for protecting environmental refugees and urgently delivering the Climate Change Act.
We are unable to take account of these pledges in our scoring of the party manifestos this close to polling day, but we are pleased by these clarified commitments.
As we near the end of our election the importance of all UK political parties having the strongest possible environmental policies was thrown into sharp focus by the deeply irresponsible and dangerous actions of Donald Trump in withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.
As our Director Craig Bennett said: “Whoever becomes the next UK Prime Minister, they must now step up on climate action and show that our ‘special relationship’ with the US cannot extend to supporting a nation that would so flippantly jeopardise the climate for future generations.”
Who does Friends of the Earth want to win?
Friends of the Earth is party politically impartial – we do not support any party or candidate. Our aim is to ensure that all parties have the strongest possible policies on the environment.
Our scoring reflects our assessment of each party’s policies on environmental criteria, and does not represent an endorsement of any party.
So, what do you think? Let us know by emailing [email protected].
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