Election manifestos. Will they be good for people and the planet?

14th April 2015
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As the main parties prepare to publish their manifestos, it’s time to set out what we’ll be looking for.

Last Friday I cycled to work through choking air pollution, thinking about the previous day’s extraordinary coverage of the potential oil reserves in beautiful Sussex. Then, at my desk I discovered the Climate Change minister has been receiving donations from one of the country’s most prominent climate sceptics.

In short, not a great morning and a reminder that protecting the environment is still very low on politicians’ list of priorities.

Which brings me to this week’s general election manifestos, expected today and tomorrow from the Labour and Conservative parties respectively.

Manifestos are weird documents. Parties use them to try to signal their priorities for Government, without saying anything too specific that they might later regret. They’re often vague as a result.

In this election they might be vaguer still, given the necessary negotiation between parties in the likely event of a hung parliament.

Nevertheless, as polling day approaches we want political parties to be super-clear about the policies we think are a priority for them to adopt. And many Friends of the Earth supporters will want to know how the parties measure up on issues like climate change, protecting and restoring nature and better use of our finite natural resources.

Previously we’ve assessed the records of the parties over the last five years. Now, we set out the ten things we think should feature, as a minimum, in their manifestos:

Stop runaway climate change

1.     Keep it in the ground: no fracking or any new fossil fuel extraction in the UK.

2.     No public money or tax relief for producing fossil fuels or nuclear power.

3.     Carbon free power: set a target for making electricity carbon-free by 2030; shut down old coal plants by 2023.

4.     Make it possible for every school to be powered by solar energy by 2016: free schools to invest in solar and remove barriers to installation.

Look after nature

5.     Save bees: strengthen the National Pollinator Strategy and extend the ban on neonicotinoid pesticides.

Help those most suffering from dangerous environments.

6.     Help people living in cold homes: insulate a million homes each year of the next parliament, helping those struggling to pay their bills first.

7.     Stop early deaths from polluted air: bring in low emission zones in every city.

Put sustainable development at the heart of economic policy

8.     Launch a Treasury-led comprehensive review of the threats to the UK economy in an increasingly resource-constrained world.

9.     Oppose the EU-US Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Defend the right to campaign

10.  Repeal the Lobbying Act before the 2016 devolved administration elections.

We’ll be assessing each document in these terms, ranking them accordingly. We’ve even got a nifty scoring system:

0 – no policy or policy not mentioned
0.25 – weak policy
0.5 – half-decent policy
0.75 – good policy
1 – excellent policy

 

The arguments will no doubt rage as to whether a policy is half-decent, good or excellent, but overall we think this score – out of possible ten – will provide a sense of how serious each party is about looking after the planet and its people.

There may of course be green announcements, good or bad, that fall outside of the list above. If Ukip repeat their threat to scrap the Climate Change Act for instance, they’re going to lose points! – with the scale going to minus for particularly destructive policies.

Watch this space – and let me know what you think of the criteria using the comments section below.

Oliver Hayes, Political Campaigner, @olliehayes