Climate change is a more prominent topic than ever before in this year’s general election.
According one polls, 27% of voters cited the environment as one of three top issues — behind Brexit and health, and on par with crime and the economy. Another poll found that 21% list environment and pollution, unprompted, when asked about the top issues “facing Britain” today – up from just 2% in 2012. Climate change is a particular concern for younger people, and another survey found that 70% of 18-24 year olds report that it will be “a factor when they cast their vote.”
Youth climate strikes and Extinction Rebellion, in particular, can be credited for raising the profile and urgency of tackling climate change, over the last two years.
Self-reported prioritisation does not straightforwardly translate into voting. Apart from anything else, all the major parties now claim to be serious about tackling climate change.
The Green Party — the only to have released its full manifesto at the time of writing — is pledging to spend £100 billion a year to reach net zero by 2030. This promised spending is five times as high as the Lib Dems’ pledge.
It is also four times as high as the last figure pledged by the Labour leadership, in The Green Transformation, one year ago. That said, there is good reason to think — and hope — that the figure in the coming manifesto will be higher. Labour’s much needed “Warm Homes” plan promises insulate the UK’s nearly 27 million households, and to help with solar panels and heat pumps. The promised spending on this programme, alone, is equal to the total promised in The Green Transformation.
Labour have also made important promises on apprenticeships, wind farms, cars, and more.
The Tories’ pledges are farcical. They say they aim for a 2050 net zero target, but their promised policies fall far short of even that. Those are: an unspecified proportion of a meagre increase in overall research budgets; increasing wind capacity by a third over a decade; planting tens of millions of trees (but billions are needed); and a temporary pause — not a ban — on fracking, a form of fossil-fuel extraction which they’ve up until now been celebrating and pushing.
The Conservatives’ climate record: as a party, as MPs, and of Boris Johnson, is abysmal. David Cameron promised the “greenest government ever”. His actions went the opposite direction.
Back then, Johnson continued to cast doubt on whether climate change even existed or hurt the environment. Later he launched a so-called “think tank” with links to many anti-environmental groups.
Unsurprising, the Lib Dems’ voting record of voting on environmental issues is also pretty bad. Modelling themselves as the party of business, they are avoiding promises which would confront fossil companies head on.
Labour’s September conference passed radical environmental policies, far bolder and closer to that needed than the Greens’. Labour’s leadership are yet to commit to the policies passed.
In fact, Barry Gardiner, Labour’s shadow trade secretary — and a vocal supporter of the far-right anti-Muslim racist Modi, Prime Minister of India — has said that Labour will not aim for net zero by 2030. Instead, net zero by “well before 2050”. This follows equivocation by Rebecca Long-Bailey, and pressure by GMB union and others.
We must promote the much-needed environmental policies that Labour’s conference passed at the same time as we campaign for Labour votes.