Tag Archives: climate change

Election focus 2017: climate change and energy policy

Thanks to Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election, three years ahead of schedule, I have to leave the lovely world of hedgehogs, dormice and baby birds to delve into the murky world of politics. Over the next week, I’ll try to summarise where the major UK parties stand on various environmental issues, based on their published manifestos.

I’m starting this series with the biggest challenge facing our generation: climate change. Where we mark our X on the ballot paper next week will have big implications not just for the next five years, but for much longer. And there’s a real difference between the parties on this issue as well.

Climate change is a huge issue, and overlaps with many other areas of policy. I’ve split up each party’s position into a few headings, to make it easier to follow:

  1. Targets & commitments
  2. Legislation
  3. Power generation
  4. Britain’s place in the world response to climate change
  5. Homes
  6. Mitigation
  7. Transport
  8. Science & industry

NB. I’m not going to report on all of their policies related to homes / transport etc – just those they link to carbon emissions or climate change.

The manifestos of the parties varied greatly in length, meaning some give much more detail than others. I didn’t ask them for further information, or search their websites. Having said that, the longer manifestos didn’t always mean more information about how they were going to achieve their stated goals.

The following tables are, I hope, an accurate reflection of what the parties say in their manifesto.  Of course, we all know that manifesto promises don’t always materialise, but, without a crystal ball, the best we can judge parties on is their prior actions and what they say they will do in the future. Click on the tables to see them full size.

Where the parties stand on climate change targets and commitments, legislation, and power generation
Where the parties stand on climate change targets and commitments, legislation, and power generation
Where the parties stand on Britain's role in the world response to climate change, and homes
Where the parties stand on Britain’s role in the world response to climate change, and homes
Where the parties stand on climate change mitigation, transport and science and industry

 

My verdict

I’ve tried to be fairly neutral in my reporting of what the parties say, and you can draw your own conclusions. But since it’s my blog, I thought I’d add a few of my reflections, which you can ignore if you want to.

  • The Tories provide very little detail about what they will actually do to combat climate change. They don’t spell out what their power generation mix will be, but their support for shale gas shows that they just haven’t got the idea that fossil fuels are not the way forward. They pay lip service to our carbon reduction obligations, but provide no info on how they will meet them. They even try to claim credit for the Climate Change Act that was introduced by the Labour government in 2008.
  • Some of the parties refer to climate in change in many different sections of their manifesto, showing that they get that this issue is not just about power supplies, but will reflect many aspects of our life.
  • Some of the parties (Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, SNP) present a clear vision of how they see Britain playing a role internationally,  – I found this quite inspiring.
  • Some of the parties (Labour, Lib Dems, SNP) presented the climate change challenge as an opportunity to develop new technology, industries, exports and jobs in the UK.
  • A vote for UKIP is a vote for climate catastrophe.
  • The Green Party manifesto was about a quarter of the length of some of the others, so inevitably has less detail. I’m not sure how the Tories managed to write 88 pages while saying so little about what they will actually do. Labour and the Lib Dems both have quite long, detailed manifestos.

Meeting my MP for #SpeakUp Week of Action on climate change

It’s not a huge secret that my political views are left of centre. Over the years I have met a few MPs about various  issues. But I have always struggled to put my point across effectively to Conservatives. How do you communicate with someone who doesn’t share any of your values? I knew I needed a different approach when meeting my MP for the Speak Up Week of Action on climate change.

My MP is a Tory with all the confidence a 25,000 vote majority gives. My previous attempts at communicating with him have not been massively successful. You can see his voting record on climate change – it didn’t fill me with hope that this was likely to be a productive meeting. But I remember one speaker at an eco church event telling us never to give up on our MP. So I needed to come up with a plan of how to persuade him.

In preparation for the Week of Action, the Climate Coalition organised a webinar focusing on how to talk to MPs from the centre right about climate change. It was massively helpful, emphasising the need to think about what they value, and how tackling climate change relates to that. They also talked about not using language that will automatically put them off.

Inspired by the webinar, I met with John and Roger (fellow Christians with a concern for environmental justice) to discuss our strategy. The plan was that we would all meet the MP together. Each of us would talk about why we care about climate change, using language that would speak to the MP’s values (protecting the landscape of where we live, leaving a positive legacy, and action on climate change making sense financially as well as environmentally). We would then ask him to write to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, calling on him to publish an ambitious low carbon investment plan.

Confident we had a good plan, I emailed  the MP’s researcher to double check the arrangements. It was at that stage I learnt that only I would be allowed to see the MP. This was a blow. Added to the fact that my MP only holds surgeries on a Friday afternoon, meaning that I had to take time off work to meet him, it gave the impression that he’s not terribly keen on meeting his constituents. I felt that this was an attempt to give him the upper hand, making me determined not to be phased.

One of the points the webinar encouraged us to make was that we speak for the ‘silent majority’. People are concerned about climate change, and want the government to act. Now, that’s easy to say, but harder to back up, especially to a sceptical Tory. The turnout at the nature walk was a bit disappointing. Hardly convincing evidence of the strength of feeling in the constituency. Luckily we had another string to our bow. We were able to get almost 100 signatures for the big green heart at church, calling on our MP to take action. That gave me confidence to go into the meeting knowing that I was speaking on behalf of many others.

Another of the top tips the webinar gave was to dress in a way your MP would respect, so I dressed in my smartest work dress, and walked across town carrying the big green heart.

The meeting went as well as could be expected. He listened while I said my bit. I refused to be riled when he said a couple of things that I suspect were meant to provoke me. Generally his body language was quite defensive. The bit of the conversation he really engaged with was when I told him my solar panels were generating more electricity than we use each year.

He didn’t agree to write to the Secretary of State, but said he would forward on a letter if I sent one to him. At the end I asked if he had any message for the people who had signed the heart. He said to tell them that he was “on side”. Time will tell if his voting record on climate change improves. But even if he just looks into getting solar panels on his house, that will at least be some progress.

There’s a parable in the Bible about a widow who gets an unjust judge to give her justice because of her persistence (to shut her up).  Climate change isn’t going away, so perhaps she provides a useful example to follow when dealing with MPs whose actions don’t match the importance of the issue.

#SpeakUp Week of Action nature walk

Last week was the Climate Coalition’s Week of Action on climate change. People across the country got together to let their MPs know that they care about climate change. As part of it, I organised a nature walk for the Mole Valley constituency.

Organising a walk in October is rather risky, so Roger (who helped me promote the event) and I were both praying hard for good weather. And our prayers were answered: it was lovely and sunny as we gathered, and the rain held off until the end of the walk.

On our nature walk in the Surrey Hills
On our nature walk in the Surrey Hills

One of the ranger team at a nearby National Trust property had volunteered to lead the walk, which was great. Stu told us about the different trees we encountered, and how the rangers plan for the long term, planting trees now to replace those that will die in the next 100 years. I think we all learnt something, as well as having a very pleasant stroll in the beautiful Surrey Hills.

An example of Ash dieback: the top of this tree is dead
An example of Ash dieback – look at the top of this tree

Things I learnt:

 

  • beech trees have very shallow roots
  • stinking iris leaves smell of beef crisps
  • what Ash dieback looks like
  • you need to plan decades ahead when looking after an estate
  • one little pot of Rodda’s clotted cream was enough for my big scone, after all

Our MP wasn’t able to make it, but we knew that in good time, so have a plan. Three of us have an appointment to meet him at his surgery next week. We’ll present him with a big green heart with pictures people have sent me of things they care about that will be affected by climate change. The local Brownies have contributed, as have kids at church. We’ll also include some photos from the walk. We just need to work out what to say to persuade him to vote for action on climate change.

The intrepid walkers with the big green heart
The intrepid walkers with the big green heart

It was quite a lot of work, organising the walk, particularly promoting it to local groups and the local paper. I don’t think it played to my strengths. My efforts weren’t spectacularly successful, but the crucial bit will be meeting the MP.

For the love of… How do I persuade my MP we need to do more to tackle climate change? 

I need your advice: how do I persuade my MP (a Tory with a huge majority) to push the government to ratify the Paris climate change agreement?

The background

In October this year, the Climate Coalition are holding a week of action. They’re encouraging people around the country to invite their MPs to events which demonstrate how much people care about climate change. They want people to share how the things they love will be affected by climate change. The ultimate aim is to encourage MPs to support ratification of the Paris climate change agreement.

I feel like this is something I have to do, but I don’t know how.

My MP

My MP is a Conservative with a huge majority. According to TheyWorkForYou.com, he generally votes against measures to reduce climate change. At a hustings I attended last year he said he thinks the UK is doing enough to combat climate change. My encounters with him so far have not been productive; he doesn’t share my views and has no need to win my vote. He’s not interested in the scientific evidence on a subject, if it goes against his own views (most of us are guilty of that failing, but I would like to believe government policy is informed by evidence).

Planning the event

I think it’s important that it focuses on the emotional side as my MP isn’t likely to change his mind based on science. This is challenging to me, as my day job is all about trying to get scientific evidence into policy. But the focus of the week of action, ‘For the love of’ should help keep me away from the dry facts.

I have a few ideas of what the event could be:

  • A walk in some of the beautiful countryside where we live (maybe risky in October?)
  • An exhibition of art on the ‘For the love of’ theme (I’ve no idea how to organise an exhibition, but I like the idea)
  • A talk from a local expert on the wildlife in our constituency
  • Some kind of combination of the above

My vicar has agreed to it being a church event, so I have access to a venue, and there are lots of talented artists I could involve if we went for the second option. I could try to make contact  with some other local groups who may be interested in climate change.

Of course, organising an event is one thing, but getting the MP to come along is crucial. What sort of event do you think would be best for showing my MP that his constituents care about climate change?

Carbon fast for Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Lent is a period of fasting for Christians, as they prepare for Easter. I feel it’s appropriate that (part of) my way of observing Lent this year is to go further with my efforts to reduce my carbon footprint.

Many people give something up for Lent – often food or drink related. This may be a primarily a spiritual thing – denying oneself something to help one focus on Jesus. It may also have other benefits – a healthier diet and/or saving money (that could then be given to charity). A carbon fast has these benefits, but it also links with the idea of repentance (turning away from sin – in this case the selfish consumerism that damages creation and leaves the poorest to suffer the effects of climate change). There’s also something  appropriate in reducing my carbon footprint during the season that starts with ashes.

Burning palm cross and ashes
Burning palm cross and ashes

There are loads of things we can do to reduce our carbon footprints, and it can seem overwhelmingly complicated at times. If you want the quick version, the three most important things we can do, as individuals, to reduce our carbon footprint are:

  1. Switch to 100% renewable electricity (and reduce how much electricity we use)
  2. Fly less
  3. Eat less meat (and dairy, sadly)

Lowering the carbon footprint of my diet was one of my new year’s resolutions, and I’ve been trying hard to stick to it, with moderate success. But I’ve found it surprisingly difficult – food manufacturers don’t display carbon emissions next to calorie counts. I work in central London, and, on my less organised days, buy my lunch from one of the myriad of sandwich shops near my office. But they provide very little information on where their food comes from, and I’ve been shocked by how few non-dairy vegetarian (or vegan) options there are. Still, this Lent, I’m going to try even harder.

 

 

Low carb(on) diet

January is the traditional month for dieting. While I don’t usually go in for that sort of thing, this year I’m giving it a go. But this is a diet with a difference – not Atkins, or 5:2. No calorie constraints or low GI. This is the low carb(on) diet.

I’ve been thinking about climate change quite a bit lately. It’s getting hard to ignore. While negotiators were in Paris, thrashing out how nations could cut emissions, I’ve been looking at my own life, to see where I could make carbon cuts. The house is pretty carbon efficient by now, so no obvious gains to be made. I use a green energy supplier. Most of my journeys are done by public transport or walking, and we chose our car partly on its low carbon emissions. The next area I need to tackle is what I eat.

Food production, storage, packaging and transport are responsible for up to a third of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. I was staggered when I learnt that. I’d always assumed it was all down to flights, electricity generation, 4 wheel drive cars and those gas burners you see outside pubs (hence not my fault). But food…?!

We all need to eat.  But some foods have a higher carbon footprint than others, so changing what I eat can help to reduce my carbon footprint. I’ve been looking into how to do this. It’s not straightforward – carbon emissions aren’t printed on the packaging like calories are, so it needs a bit more work. Here are some tips I’ve picked up:

  1. Don’t waste food – an obvious one really. Food waste means resources are wasted producing, transporting and packaging it. Rotting food in landfills also release methane. I’ve been getting better at reducing my food waste recent years, planning out what I’ll eat each night at the start of the week, and buying only what I need (not random things I like the look of but don’t make a sensible meal).
  2. Buy seasonal and local food (or grow my own) – again, I do reasonably well at buying local, seasonal food, partly because I get most of my fruit and veg from my town’s wonderful Food Float, a stall in the High Street that sells food from local producers. Farm shops and fruit and veg box schemes are another way of eating more seasonally (although I struggled with food waste when I used to have weekly veg boxes – I wasn’t organised enough). I’ve had mixed success at growing my own fruit and veg (mainly because the wildlife in my garden tends to out compete me for it – hence the image above), but it can certainly reduce your food miles. Yes, it does mean some sacrifices (winter in Britain means lots of root veg, and no exciting soft fruit). But no-one said we can carry on as normal while getting serious about climate change.
  3. Cut down on meat and dairy, especially beef, lamb and cheese: ruminants like cows and sheep are responsible for a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. And their feed also has a high carbon footprint. If I am serious about doing my bit to combat climate change, I can’t ignore this. I’m not the world’s biggest carnivore – I only eat meat once or twice a week. But I am a true Devonian, and love dairy products – milk, cream, and especially cheese. I’ve occasionally had to go dairy-free, and I am not good company then. Sadly cheese is a big offender – it takes lots of milk to produce a bit of cheese. I am not going to cut meat or cheese out of my diet completely. But I am reducing how much I eat. I am eating more fish and less red meat. And I am trying to come up with lower carbon alternatives to my usual cheese sandwich for lunch.
  4. Don’t buy air freighted food: transporting food by plane rather than ship releases 30 times more carbon. Sadly food labels don’t usually say how something has been transported. So, the first tactic relates to tip 2 – buy locally produced food. When buying food from far away, be careful about fresh food that doesn’t last long (eg. soft fruits or fresh fish) – they’re most likely to have been flown in. Shipped frozen fish from far away has a smaller carbon footprint than fresh fish that has been flown. Missing out on strawberries, grapes and cherries over winter is no fun, but at least England always has a good supply of apples through the winter months. (If I were only allowed one sort of fruit from now on, I’d pick apples anyway).
  5. Avoid processed and over-packaged food: Packaging food and drink uses resources. Obviously some packaging is necessary, and can help reduce food waste by making sure the food lasts longer and doesn’t get spoilt. But I’m sure you can think of examples of unnecessary packaging. Buying fruit and veg from the market / farmers market / Food Float / farm shop usually means the packaging is kept to a minimum. It’s harder at the supermarket. Processing food uses energy, whether the processing happens at home or industrially, but some processed foods contain carbon-hungry sweeteners or preservatives that you wouldn’t use at home. Heavily processed food is often the worst offender with packaging as well. So, to tackle this issue, I’m going to have to think about packaging when I’m shopping. I guess I’ll also have to try to make more of my meals from scratch rather than buying processed alternatives. My lunch is the biggest area in this category that needs improvement, as I often end up popping to a sandwich shop. I need to get better organised with buying ingredients for lower carbon lunches.

It’s not going to be easy, and will require sacrifices. But climate change could make a massive impact on our food security, so I need to do my bit. Do you have any tips for lower carbon eating?

Election summary

Thank goodness there’s only one day to go until the election. In case you still haven’t decided whom to vote for, here’s a quick summary of where the parties stand on some issues relating to wildlife and the environment.

Summary of where the parties stand on some nature issues
Summary of where the parties stand on some nature issues

Of course, this table is a very simplified summary. If you want to find out more, please read the full posts:

Fellow blogger Georgia Locock has been looking through the party manifestos to see what they have to say on a variety of other nature issues (sadly, in most of cases she’s investigated, most of the parties have little to say, reflecting the importance they place on these issues). Do have a look at her posts, as they provide a useful summary of the issues, even if the party manifestos are uninformative:

I hope that, if you can vote in the UK, you will consider some of these issues (along with other important things like the NHS) when deciding who to vote for. And if you’re wavering on whether to vote or not, please do, as there is real difference between the parties on some of these issues.

I’m looking forward to normal service resuming on this blog, focusing on my wildlife adventures rather than politics. But we only get a chance to vote in a national election once every five years, so we need to make the most of it.

Church speaks and acts on climate change

Update, 1 May 2015: Since I wrote this post earlier this week, the Church of England has announced that it will cut its investment in fossil fuel companies. The Church of England has investment funds worth £8bn, so this announcement is significant. While it's not withdrawing all its funds from fossil fuel companies, it is using its position as a shareholder to press for increased transparency on climate change.

I’m heartened to see the Church (both Catholic and Anglican) speaking out about climate change, and challenging politicians to do more.

The Catholic Church have been holding the Vatican Science Academy, where leading scientists, economists and theologians have been discussing climate change, in the hope of influencing UN meetings on Sustainable Development Goals. The Vatican are expected to issue a statement saying  that action to cut climate emissions is “a moral and religious imperative, highlighting the intrinsic connection between respect for the environment and respect for people – especially the poor, children, and future generations”.  

Meanwhile, Church of England Bishops have also been speaking of a moral duty to tackle climate change, and calling on politicians to back their pledges up with firm action. And in the US the head of the Episcopal Church has recently come out to say that climate change is “is certainly a moral issue in terms of the impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable around the world already.”

Some people (especially politicians when they’re being criticised) say that the church should keep out of politics. But reading the Gospels (and the Old Testament prophets) has convinced me that the Church has a duty to speak out on some political issues. Jesus wasn’t a politician, but his teaching was revolutionary. The House of Bishop’s pastoral letter to parishioners in the lead up to the General election explains why they believe the Church should be speaking out on political issues, including the environment.

The Church (and others) have been speaking out about climate change for years. But this recent intervention is timely, at least for the UK, with our General Election next week. Climate change hasn’t featured highly on the political agenda so far. Hopefully this will make some Christians consider the parties’ policies on climate change (among other issues) when deciding whom to vote for next week. Twice as many people attended a Church of England service last Sunday than are members of all the political parties put together in the UK, so Christians have a real opportunity to influence the outcome of this election.

Further information

UKIP’s climate change policy is dangerous and cynical

UKIP’s climate change policy is extremely dangerous, and their attempts to justify it don’t just misunderstand the evidence, but blatantly, cynically distort it. I know that I have already blogged about the climate change policies of the political parties. But I really need to get this off my chest.

Last week I attended a hustings, where the audience got to grill potential parliamentary candidates from the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Green Party and UKIP. It was interesting, but nobody said anything very unexpected. But one point really raised my hackles: UKIP’s response to a question on climate change. I already knew they planned to do nothing to tackle climate change. It was their justification for this that astounded me:

  1. Climate change isn’t happening
  2. And it’s not down to humans anyway (it’s all the sun’s fault)
  3. The 97% of scientists who say otherwise are all in the pay of the Green lobby
  4. The 5th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report supports UKIP’s views on this

When challenged on this latter point the UKIP candidate proceeded to quote parts of the report which discuss the areas where the existing models are not yet perfect. Someone from UKIP has clearly been through the report, looking for any minor caveats that, when quoted out of context, may make it sound like the report is saying climate change isn’t really happening.

My day job is about making sure the results of scientific research influence policy and practice. So I spend a lot of time thinking about how evidence should be used to inform policy (see my blog post on the evidence around the badger cull if you’re interested in science and policy). Science is often messier than it is portrayed in the media: we don’t always understand everything about an issue perfectly. That’s why there are caveats about the limitations of the evidence in every scientific paper. Science is very good at quantifying the level of uncertainty in results – scientists use confidence intervals to show the range in which they can be confident the true value sits. Acknowledging uncertainty and limitations doesn’t make science useless: you bear the limitations and uncertainty  in mind when interpreting the results, but you certainly shouldn’t ignore the body of evidence completely.

The IPCC report was written by hundreds of scientists, and reviewed by more than a thousand experts, and governments, from around the world. When writing the report, the IPCC will have considered all the evidence, uncertainty and limitations. Taking that all into account, here’s their summary shortest summary of all that evidence (I’ve added the emphasis in bold to help you pick out the bits that relate to UKIP’s claims) :

"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have 
warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the 
concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.

"Total radiative forcing is positive, and has led to an uptake of energy by the climate system. 
The largest contribution to total radiative forcing is caused by the increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 since 1750

"Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse 
gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and 
understanding of the climate system. 

"Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all 
components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and 
sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions." 

Don’t take my word for it – you can read the IPCC report online, in varying levels of details, from a 28 page summary for policymakers, an 84 page technical summary, or the full report.

UKIP’s attempt to justify their climate change policy by misrepresenting the scientific evidence is cynical. It’s not that they don’t understand. They are attempting to deceive the British public. I pray they get nowhere near power – whatever you think of their other policies (beyond the scope of this blog), their climate change and energy policies will be disastrous.

OK. Rant over. For a more dispassionate look at the climate change policies of UKIP and the other parties, read the Election Focus.

Election focus: climate change

Climate change is probably the single most important issue facing our generation, so we need to make sure that whoever we vote for in May has a good policy for dealing with it. In fact, I’d even go so far to say that this blog post may be one of the most important thing you read this year. But I fear I may have bitten off more than I can chew with this particular issue. The topic for my previous election focus was fairly straightforward: was the party going to continue / increase / end the badger cull? Climate change policy is complex, encompassing a range of issues: targets to reduce carbon emissions, energy policies, adaptation and resilience, transport, energy efficiency, forest loss, and promoting low-energy technologies. In this post I seek to summarise what the main parties (including Plaid Cymru and the SNP) have to say on each of these issues.

The process of researching this post has been quite informative – not just for finding out what the parties’ policies are, but how much they talk about it. My main sources of information for this post are the parties’ own websites. For the Green Party, SNP and Plaid Cymru this was quite straightforward – they had plenty of information on their climate change policies and it was easy to find. There was much less information available on the other parties’ websites. Draw your own conclusions from that…  In fact, I was unable to find anything about it on the Conservative Party website (it doesn’t help that they don’t have a search function).

I contacted the press offices of the parties I was unable to find sufficient information for, but have yet to hear back from them. I will update this post if and when I do hear anything. My other source of information was the very helpful Vote for Policies website, which contains information about all the parties’ policies on a whole range of issues – please do visit it. So, if it looks like I’m giving more coverage to some parties than others on this topic, it’s not because I’m biased (although I am), it’s because some parties have more to say on this issue than others.

Carbon emissions targets

The Conservatives say they will continue to cut emissions (although I was unable to find out how much by, which is pretty important). They also say they will work to secure a global climate change agreement, although what they hope this agreement will include is unclear.

Labour say they will stick to ambitious, legally binding targets for carbon reduction – including the full implementation of carbon budgets. This includes the target of decarbonising our electricity supply by 2030. They will push for global targets for reducing carbon emissions with regular reviews towards the long-term goal of what the science now tells us is necessary – zero net global emissions in the latter half of this century.

The Lib Dems say they will introduce a Zero Carbon Britain Act to strengthen the Climate Change Act targets, although I was unable to find what the stronger targets will be.

UKIP‘s policy is very different to that of the other politcal parties. They say they will abolish the Department of Energy and Climate Change and scrap green subsidies. They will repeal the Climate Change Act 2008 and abolish green taxes and charges in order to reduce fuel bills.

The Greens have a huge amount of information about Climate Change on their website, and what they would do to tackle it. They have clearly thought the issue through in detail, based on science. They say they will take serious action on climate change by working with other countries to ensure global temperatures do not rise beyond 2 degrees. They will aim steadily to reduce all UK greenhouse gas emissions to 10% of their 1990 levels by 2030. They say they will establish effective mechanisms for getting back on track should an annual target be missed.

The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) is aiming for 80 per cent of Scotland’s electricity to be from clean green renewable sources by 2020. Through the Scottish Parliament they have  introduced climate change legislation to reduce emissions by 42% by the end of the decade, with annual targets and a minimum of 80% reduction by 2050.

Plaid Cymru say the National Assembly of Wales has agreed, with cross-party support, to reduce emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020. Plaid will work to ensure that this decision is turned into meaningful and effective action to achieve the full reduction. They have established the Climate Change Commission for Wales, and have set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3% per year in areas of devolved competence.

Power generation

The Conservatives say they will invest in low carbon energy, but end public subsidies for newly planned onshore wind farms and reform planning.

Labour say they will decarbonise our electricity supply by 2030 (although I couldn’t find any details on what the mix of renewables and nuclear power will be).

The Lib Dems say they will introduce a decarbonisation target for the electricity sector and end the use of dirty coal power stations. Again, the mix of different renewables and nuclear power is unclear, as is exactly what the decarbonisation target is.

UKIP have provided more detail about their aims for power generation: they support a diverse energy market including coal, nuclear, shale gas, geo-thermal, tidal, solar, conventional gas and oil. They will encourage the re-development of British power stations, as well as industrial units providing on-site power generation. UKIP supports the development of shale gas (fracking) with proper safeguards for the local environment. They say there will be no new subsidies for wind farms and solar arrays.

The Greens say they will phase out fossil-fuel based energy generation and nuclear power, and invest in a public programme of renewable generation.

The SNP claim they have transformed Scotland into a world leader in green energy, with 39 new renewable projects since they came to power and pioneering climate change legislation. Scotland is on track to produce nearly a third of its electricity this year from clean green renewable sources. Under the SNP there will be no new nuclear power stations in Scotland. They want more Scots to live in carbon neutral communities and will continue to support and encourage local and community action on this. The SNP-led Scottish Government has invested heavily in our renewables sector. With 25% of Europe’s wind energy potential, including massive off shore as well as onshore wind power capabilities, a quarter of Europe’s tidal resource, and huge potential from clean coal and carbon capture, the SNP believes there are real economic and employment opportunities for Scotland.

Plaid Cymru say Wales could be self-sustaining in energy generation by 2020. Wales must take full advantage of its renewable energy resources and support micro generation and other small-scale sustainable power generation schemes, including tidal, wave-power, on-shore and off-shore wind, hydro and biomass. They call for emission performance standards for all new power stations and reaffirm their opposition to the construction of any new nuclear power stations in Wales. They call for research into the creation of a European Smart Power Grid for the sharing of renewable energies across Europe. They say they will work to ensure that the new feed-in tariffs encourage community-scale renewable energy.

Adaptation and Resilience

Climate change is happening already, so we need to adapt to it. But you'd hope that the parties that are doing least on preventing climate change (UKIP) would have pretty darn good policies for adapting to the effects of climate change. It doesn't necessarily work that way...

The Conservatives say they will invest £2.3 billion in over 1,400 flood defence schemes between 2015/16 and 2020/21.

Labour say they will prioritise flood prevention and introduce a new climate change adaptation plan to help us properly prepare for the effects of a changing climate.

I was unable to find anything about adaptation and resilience on the Lib Dem, UKIP, Plaid Cymru or SNP websites.

The Greens say they will invest in a public programme of flood defences.

Reducing carbon emissions from transport

The Conservatives, Labour and UKIP seem to have little to say on how they will reduce carbon emissions from transport.

The Lib Dems say they will introduce a Green Transport Act to help establish a full network of charging points for electric cars, incentivise greener travel choices and update planning law and ensure new developments are designed around walking, cycling and public transport.

The Green Party‘s policy website has loads to say on the issue of transport. I can’t put it all in here (this is already my longest post ever), but the jist of it is they will work to reduce demand, improve planning, encourage renewable fuels, encourage walking and cycling, and improve public transport (including taking the railways back under public control).

The SNP say they have reduced the carbon footprint of the Scottish rail network by delivering 218 miles of new electrified track across the country. They have begun major investment in low carbon transport which will be a crucial part of our carbon reduction efforts.

Plaid Cymru say they have scrapped unsustainable plans to build an M4 relief road on environmental and financial grounds.

Energy efficiency

The Conservative party say they will deliver energy efficiency measures to bring down emissions and bills. They don’t state what these measures are (as far as I can find).

Labour say they will improve energy efficiency and insulate at least five million homes over the next ten years.

The Lib Dems say they will introduce a Green Buildings Act to boost renewable and district heating programmes, bring in tough new energy efficiency standards for homes, and step up action on fuel poverty. This includes a national programme to insulate homes with a Council Tax cut if you take part.

UKIP and the SNP seem to be silent on this issue.

The Greens say they will invest in a public programme of building insulation. They say the Government should institute a national publicity campaign on the threats from climate change, the need to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other green house gases, and how individuals can play their part in this.

Plaid Cymru say we all have a responsibility to improve energy efficiency within our homes and to use more renewable energy. Plaid in Westminster will continue to campaign for a windfall tax on energy companies to help pay for grants for insulation for lower income families

Reducing forest loss

The Conservatives and Lib Dems are quiet on this issue (perhaps not surprising, given the Coalition government’s attempts to sell off publicly-owned forests).

Labour say they will protect our forests, keeping them in public ownership, and bring nature closer to people by making public access to green spaces a priority.

UKIP say they will protect the Green Belt, and change planning rules to make it easier to build on brownfield sites instead of greenfield sites.

The Greens have a forestry policy that should lead to net CO2 absorption from land-use changes for several decades. They also say the industrialised nations and multinational companies have profited the most from the cheap timber and pulp, cattle feed, meat and other food imports which result from global deforestation, and must therefore pay the cost of implementing a logging and land conversion moratorium. Trade rules must be changed to ban the international trade in products produced at the expense of old- growth forests.

The SNP say they will plant millions of new trees, protect peatlands and protect and expand our marine carbon sinks as ways of rebalancing Scotland’s carbon account.

Plaid Cymru say they have created and supported indigenous woodlands, with the planting of more than 112,000 trees in Monmouthshire, Gwynedd and Blaenau Gwent.

Investing in low energy technologies

I couldn’t find any information about the Conservatives, Lib Dems, UKIP and Greens policies in relation to investing in low energy technologies (although the Greens probably have that covered in detail somewhere on their policy website – my investigative energies are flagging now, so I didn’t look as hard as I should have).

Labour say they will make Britain a world leader in low carbon technology and green jobs, creating a million new high technology, green jobs by 2025. They will also strengthen the Green Investment Bank with borrowing powers, ensuring it is better placed to support investment in small and medium green businesses seeking to grow.

The SNP say their £10 million Saltire prize for marine energy innovation has made Scotland a focal point for research and deployment of marine renewable technology. With tens of thousands of new jobs expected to be created in the renewable sector within the next decade they are working to build the right skills, attract new investment and ensure Scotland is recognised as the most attractive location in Europe for marine renewables and carbon capture.

Plaid Cymru say they have created the Low Carbon Research Institute which aims to build research capacity and establish Wales as an internationally competitive centre for low carbon research. They have announced a £34 million programme to drive forward cutting-edge research to secure a low carbon future for Wales, create green jobs and help business to develop sustainable products and technologies.

Conclusion

Well done if you’ve made it this far! I can’t overstate how important this issue is. We need a new government who is going to deal with it wisely. Having spent quite a bit of time looking into the varies parties’ policies, some of them have clearly given the issue a lot of thought, while others appear to have been scribbled on the back of a beer mat (or napkin from an upmarket gentleman’s club). I think the difficulty I had in finding a lot of this information reflects that the Conservatives, Labour, UKIP and the Lib Dems don’t think people care enough about it to pick it out as one of their focus areas for the election campaign. We really need to make sure politicians know that we do care, and will cast our vote accordingly.