Polling Day is now under 24 hours away. Every political party in the UK is currently in the final throes of campaigning with a good dose of soundbite warfare thrown in for good measure. Something is missing though. The vast majority of parties are curiously silent about their stances on one of the greatest threats our global society has ever faced; climate change.
98% of the global scientific community now accept the idea that climate change is a real and present danger to human life and modern society, as we know it. The consequences of climate change will only continue to worsen over the coming decades, and the thought of living in a 2ºc warmer world (on average) may well become a reality far sooner than we previously thought, as new IPCC research shows.
Another item to consider is the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol – drawn up by the UNFCC in the Rio 1992 COP (Conference of Parties) to manage global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – has now expired. All eyes are now on the Paris negotiations this winter to provide the framework and acceptance of a new agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions for the 21st century. Just last week, the Supreme Court – the highest court within the UK legal system – ruled against the Government and in favour of environmental campaigners that the levels of nitrogen dioxide in the UK atmosphere were in breach of EU law, so there is a lot to be done by whoever gets the keys to No. 10 following the General Election.
Across all the combined published manifestos of the main political parties, climate change is only mentioned a few times, in all the places you’d expect – predominantly in the Green Party and Liberal Democrat manifestos. Most parties have instead, however, eschewed the discussion of what is to be done or the setting of specific goals or targets for the country to achieve now and in the future.
The Conservative manifesto mentions climate change briefly but have sets no goals or targets to achieve. Labour, conversely, mentions climate change several times, focussing on the proposal of ‘an ambitious agreement on greenhouse gas emissions to be established’ at the Paris UNFCCC Conference in December 2015.
The Liberal Democrats set out some of the most solid proposals for climate change in the three major parties, including goals of a ‘zero-carbon Britain’ by 2050 and the target of cutting GHG emissions by 50% by 2030. This figure may seem ambitious, but falls in line with the 80% reduction in UK GHG emissions (against 1990-levels) by 2050, required by UK law in the 2008 Climate Change Act.
One of UKIP’s manifesto promises, strangely, is to abolish the Department for Climate Change (DECC). DECC is governmental department responsible for key input into UK energy policy as well as promoting international efforts in tackling climate change around the world. Otherwise, climate change is mentioned only twice in the official UKIP document.
As you might expect, the Green Party remains the main UK political party to give climate change the most column inches – including a 6-page section dedicated to discussing ‘Energy and Climate Change’. A serious push for renewables as well as the banning of fracking practices are some of the key pledges put forward. Both Leanne Wood’s Plaid Cymru and Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP discuss the need to tackle climate change, but fail to go into any specifics as to how either party plans to curb the effects and mitigate the inherent consequences.
The lack of discussion about climate change begs the question; is it unimportant to the vast majority of parties or is it just not a vote winner, with any meaningful discussion relegated instead to the depths of a manifesto as opposed to being front and centre of political campaigning?
Around the world, nations are coming together to tackle climate change, from adapting cities and human settlements, to researching new technologies for the future and divesting fossil fuel stocks. In the US, the Pentagon has equated climate change as a threat to national security and, most recently, Barack Obama used a recent keynote speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner to passionately urge for changes in business and society to deal with climate change head on.
Whether the United Kingdom is to become a key part of the climate negotiations this December in Paris, remains to be seen. What must happen, regardless of whoever gets into Downing Street, is that climate change be placed high up on the list of priorities.
To read the Manifesto of the main UK political parties, please use the links below.
If you are unsure as to which party to vote for on May 7th, visit Vote For Policies.