The Liberal Democrat Party manifesto has been consistently good on the environment for many years – how does this one shape up?
Here are my thoughts on likes and gripes (restricted to the environmental issues):
- ‘when the terms of our future relationship with the EU have been negotiated (over the next two years on the Government’s timetable), we will put that deal to a vote of the British people in a referendum, with the alternative option of staying in the EU on the ballot paper’
- ‘a Nature Act to put the Natural Capital Committee (NCC) on a statutory footing, set legally binding natural capital targets, including on biodiversity, clean air and water, and empower the NCC to recommend actions to meet these targets’
- ‘ to put the protection of the environment at the heart of policies across all areas of government, we will establish a Cabinet Committee on Sustainability, chaired by a cabinet minister, establish an Office for Environmental Responsibility to scrutinise the government’s efforts to meets its environmental targets, and place a responsibility on every government agency to account for its contribution towards meeting climate targets in everything it does’
- ‘increase the amount of accessible green space, including completion of the coastal path, and create a new designation of National Nature Parks to protect up to a million acres of accessible green space valued by local communities’
- ‘a £2bn flood prevention fund focused on providing support for small community- and council-led schemes to reduce upstream flooding and the knock-on effects in downstream and coastal areas; in addition to improving flood defences, and introducing high standards for flood resilience for buildings and infrastructure in flood risk areas’
- ‘Suspend the use of neonicotinoids until proven that their use in agriculture does not harm bees or other pollinators’
- ‘Reverse the current sharp decline in the rate of woodland creation by aiming to plant a tree for every UK citizen over the next ten years, and protect remaining ancient woodlands’
- ‘Protect and restore England’s lakes, rivers and wetlands, including through reform of water management and higher water efficiency standards, and establish a ‘blue belt’ of marine protected areas’
- ‘Continue our long campaign to reform agricultural subsidies – making sure British farming remains competitive and doesn’t lose out in the event of Britain leaving the EU, rebalancing away from direct subsidy and refocusing support towards the public goods that come from effective land management including countryside protection, flood prevention, food production, and climate change mitigation. This would ensure that smaller farms are protected and move support away from large landowners, whilst delivering a more localised agricultural policy’
- ‘Introduce a National Food Strategy to promote the production and consumption of healthy, sustainable and affordable food’
- ‘Develop safe, effective, humane, and evidence-based ways of controlling bovine TB, including by investing to produce workable vaccines’
- ‘Pass a Zero Waste Act, including legally-binding targets for reducing net consumption of key natural resources, and introducing incentives for businesses to improve resource efficiency’
- ‘a Green Transport Act, introduce an Air Quality Plan to reduce air pollution and protect UK citizens and support the manufacture of low-emission and electric vehicles’
- ‘Accept that new nuclear power stations can play a role in electricity supply provided concerns about safety, disposal of waste and cost are adequately addressed’
- ‘Pass a Zero Carbon Britain Act to set new legally binding targets to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2040 and to zero by 2050’
- ‘Pass a new Green Buildings Act to set new energy efficiency targets, including a long-term ambition for every home in England to reach at least an energy rating of Band C by 2035’
- there isn’t much in here to complain about – there really isn’t
- the layout of the manifesto on the web makes it quite easy to miss things
Overall assessment: I’d give it a B+ along with the Green and Labour manifestos, and way ahead of the Conservative version.
If you think there is any prospect at all of the Liberal Democrats having any real say in anything in the next parliament then there is a lot to which to look forward. In particular, for many of us, it seems both eminently sensible and only fair that there should be a referendum on the terms of Brexit once we know how ghastly and awful and damaging they will be. But it just isn’t going to happen is it?
There are many good Liberal Democrat MPs, both existing ones and others who lost their seats in 2015 (some of whom may be reelected this time around) and there are seats where the LibDems are the best chance of unseating the Tory candidate – but aside from that then their manifesto doesn’t matter very much.