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UK election 2024: What the manifestos mean for sustainability

Sehrish Alikhan

Sehrish Alikhan

Reporter, Finextra

The UK general election will take place on July 4, with each party championing different priorities when it comes to the future of the country. Along with the many needs of a nation, one glaring main concern of each platform should be their sustainable development goals and climate focus for the future.

Dominic Rowles, lead ESG analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, commented: “As the planet nears critical climate and nature-related tipping points, the next government will play a crucial role in steering us towards a sustainable future. Getting to net zero by 2050 is an objective shared by both major parties, but while they agree on the destination, the way we get there is hotly contested.”

The two big contenders, Conservatives and Labour, are on opposing sides. While both are working towards net zero goals by 2030, investing in UK renewable energy resources, improving water quality, and accelerating the usage of electric vehicles, they are sporting rival policies on the future of UK energy infrastructure. Below I have outlined several key party’s targets for sustainability and climate finance.

Conservatives pledge for renewable resources

The Tories have not outlined specific targets for sustainable finance, but have stated that they are committed to reaching net zero by 2050 and bolstering energy independence in the UK.

“We will maintain the leadership on climate change we achieved at COP26 and our efforts to tackle global warming and biodiversity loss. We will continue to ring-fence our commitment to International Climate Finance.”

The party aims to implement a new import carbon pricing mechanism by 2027 to ensure UK imports are comparable to global carbon pricing. The Conservatives are also pushing for expanding nuclear and gas power stations that will back renewable energy resources to lower household energy bills.

Tories plan to create annual licensing rounds for oil and gas production from North Sea, and the Labour Party pledges to ban fracking and to refuse to issue licenses for North Sea projects, while retaining existing licenses.

Tories maintain that the sustainable transition should not be impacting citizen’s living standards: “We will back up renewables and prevent the prospect of blackouts with new gas power stations to maintain a safe and reliable energy source for days when the weather doesn’t power up renewables. Conservatives know that if we are forced to choose between clean energy and keeping citizens safe and warm, we will choose to keep the lights on.”

Labour promises climate change will be a priority

The Labour Party’s sustainable goals have been more specific, with the party pledging to establish a clean power company called Great British Energy to cut down on bills and decarbonise the electricity grid by 2030. They also highlighted in their manifesto that they will propose severe fines to companies that continue to pollute rivers and seas, and enforce a regulatory block of river pollution along with driving companies to clean up the waters.

Labour also maintained that petrol and diesel vehicle sales will be banned by 2030, a goal that the Tories had moved to 2035, and that they will reverse the Conservative mandate to remove climate change in the Bank of England’s priorities.

For financial institutions specifically, the Labour manifesto outlined: “Britain’s world-leading financial services industry has a major role to play in mobilising trillions of pounds in private capital to address the greatest long-term challenge of our age. Labour will make the UK the green finance capital of the world, mandating UK-regulated financial institutions – including banks, asset managers, pension funds, and insurers – and FTSE 100 companies to develop and implement credible transition plans that align with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement.”

If elected, the Labour Party will also establish a National Wealth Fund with £7.3 billion in capital, to fund clean energy missions and growth, of which £1 billion will be dedicated to accelerating the deployment of carbon capture.

However, earlier this year the Labour Party backed out of plans to invest £28 billion a year in green jobs, stating that they will pick up on the initiative later in their term.

Green Party pushes for a green economy

The Green Party manifesto champions sustainability, stating that any company with a UK banking license will need to outline an investment strategy to divest fossil fuel assets by 2030. Non-bank financial institutions will need to divest from fossil fuel assets in their investment portfolios, securities transactions, and balance sheets by 2030.

The Greens plan to offer credit guidance to direct lending towards a sustainable transition, and to establish credit ceilings and bans for unsustainable activities. The party also created a carbon neutrality roadmap for the UK financial system, consistent with obligations of the Glasgow Accord. In their plan, the FCA will be working towards eliminating equities to fossil fuel exploitation in the UK stock market and prohibit issuance of those shares, invest in wind and solar power, end nuclear power and oil and gas subsidies, enforce a carbon tax on fossil fuel imports, create an energy storage infrastructure, and to ensure that UK electricity will be 70% powered by wind in 2030.

The carbon tax will work to both drive out fossil fuels from the economy and raise further funds for the green transition. The Green also pledge to reach net zero and end greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, publicly own water companies to stop sewage discharge, and end petrol and diesel vehicles sales by 2027 to ensure there are no petrol and diesel vehicles on the roads by 2035.

Green MPs have set targets to increase climate finance for the Global South to 1.5% by 2033, and contribute to a new Loss and Damage fund to support other countries to decarbonise their economies and build resilience against climate change.

Overall, the Greens have highlighted their investment for a sustainable future, and outlined their plan to invest in a green economy: “Green MPs will press for: Regional mutual banks to be set up to drive investment in decarbonisation and local economic sustainability; £2bn per year in grant funding for local authorities to help businesses decarbonise; Community ownership to be encouraged through greater access to government funding in the transition to a zero-carbon economy.”

Liberal Democrats crackdown on biodiversity loss

The Lib Dems have highlighted a few similar goals to that of the Tories and Labour Party on different timelines, signaling the need to transform the management of water companies to reduce pollution, ending greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, backing UK renewable energy to ensure 90% of UK electricity comes from renewable sources by 2030, and making electric vehicles more accessible.

The Lib Dems stated that companies listed on the UK stock exchange will need to set net zero targets for 2045 and report on progress. Their manifesto adds:

“Regulating financial services to encourage climate-friendly investments, including requiring pension funds and managers to show that their portfolio investments are consistent with the Paris Agreement, and creating new powers for regulators to act if banks and other investors are not managing climate risks properly.”

What the Lib Dems have stated that sets them apart slightly is their set targets to reverse the decline of natural environment, to end OECD companies’ subsidies in fossil fuel projects, requiring big businesses to introduce nature-related financial disclosure requirements, and laying out Blue Carbon and Soils Carbon Standards to tackle greenwashing.

Reform UK have no plan

Reform UK, piloted by Nigel Farage, who was caught banana milkshake-splattered last month thanks to a heroic and daring youth, has little in regards to its sustainability plan.

The party pledged to increase the farming budget by £3 billion by replacing subsidies for solar farms and rewilding. Reform UK is pro-nuclear energy development, aims to tax renewable energy industries, and is set to end all policies and subsidies working towards net zero.

The party’s manifesto states: “Reform UK will scrap Net Zero to cut bills and restore growth.”

Other sustainable platforms

Among the smaller parties that may have a say if the election divides the government, the Scottish National Party is championing a carbon capture project and the potential for hydrogen export in its manifesto. Wales’ Plaid Cymru plans to platform renewable energy by implementing retrofitting and increasing green jobs.

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