With the Queen granting Gordon Brown permission to dissolve parliament, the speculation can now stop and the hype begin; the general election will be on May 6. With this announcement the debate has already started, generally focusing on the key issue of the day, namely the world financial crisis and how the party leaders plan to reverse the trend in job cuts in the UK.
Afghanistan, the NHS, education and crime will almost certainly be hot topics for discussion. Even the issue of reducing the tax on cider distracts readers of certain tabloids from the more relevant problems of the day.
These issues aside, the three main party leaders, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg have asserted that they are the ‘greenest’ party (perhaps excluding the Green party) and that they will each strive to set in motion the carbon neutral revolution of the economy in the next five years. During the next four weeks we are certain to read much boasting from the respective parties regarding their green manifestos but what are we to expect?
Energy: David Cameron has stated on numerous occasions that he doesn’t see nuclear power as a long term energy solution for the UK, insisting that he would prefer to see greater investment in renewable energy as a means of transitioning from fossil fuel energy sources.
With the EU setting a target of generating 20 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020 the Conservatives have supported the development of green energy sites from an executive level. David Cameron has long been an advocate of green energy and a supporter of the feed-in tariff mechanism as a way of driving investment in new technologies.
Emissions: Ambitious targets have been set with the Conservatives announcing that they will set carbon reduction targets of 60 per cent by 2050 which would be monitored on a year to year basis by an independent climate change commission.
If elected into government the Conservative leadership has plans to replace the climate change levy with a system based on how many units of carbon a company emits rather than how much energy it uses. This, they believe would incentivise businesses to go greener, sooner.
Vehicles: Conservative plans to reduce emissions from UK roads include taxing drivers on how much they use their vehicles. They have also announced that they will employ measures such as reducing the average emission of new cars to 20g/km by 2022 and set an average for all cars by 2030.
The Conservative Party has also opposed the congestion charge in London and all road pricing across the country, however it remains unclear whether they would actually abolish the charge once in power.
Energy: Having already established the department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) which has overseen the recent introduction of the Clean Energy Cash Back scheme, Labour plan to move further towards green energy generation and intend to make all homes carbon neutral by 2016. The feed-in tariff which came into affect on April 1 is a mechanism which will seek to boost investment in renewable micro-generation, offering small scale generators guaranteed, premium rates for energy fed back into the national grid. The scheme introduced by the DECC will be carried on beyond the May election with hopes within the party that micro-generation will become a typical feature of the British energy industry.
Emissions: The Labour party has already set a target of reducing CO2 emissions 60 per cent by 2050 with a more short-term target of 26-32 per cent by 2020. Unlike the Conservative plan for annual emission assessments, Labour instead wants emission targets to be set and reviewed every five years as ‘carbon budgets’. In the past Labour has supported EU proposals of reducing carbon emissions 20 per cent by 2020.
Vehicles: Famously introducing the London congestion charge, Labour wish to extend the zone around the capital and want to implement the same scheme in other British cities as a means of combating congestion and pollution. Road pricing will become a Labour mantra with plans to charge motorists for the amount of time they spend on the roads.
Energy: Going along with the European Union, the Liberal Democrats have set the target of producing 20 per cent of all energy from renewable means by 2020 with further targets of 50 per cent by 2050. The Liberal Democrats do not however believe in the use of nuclear power and have set out that they think that the money building new nuclear facilities would be better spent on renewable energy plants.
Emissions: The Lib Dems have set out emission reduction targets of 60 per cent by 2050. Nick Clegg’s party have announced that in government they would levy a carbon tax which would be payable by all consumers not involved in the emission trading scheme, something which they believe would make a real difference from a grass roots level.
Vehicles: The Liberal Democrats have proposed a dramatic rise in tax paid by motorists in the UK with plans to raise top payments from £215 p/a to £2000 p/a in a bid designed to encourage people away from their cars and into public transport. The Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) would be scrapped for less polluting cars and duties would be halved for vehicles owned by those in rural households.
Part of the plan to entice the British public away from their cars is being reflected in proposals to invest in public transport. Public transport funding would come from road pricing and congestion charges in and around the UK’s busiest cities.