On Thursday, November 28th, the leaders of most of the political parties in the UK took part in a “Climate Debate” (unfortunately the leaders of the Conservative Party and the Brexit Party did not accept the invitation). If you haven’t seen the debate, you can see the whole thing right here below, as Channel 4 has released it on YouTube. I’ll make my comments further down in this post. For me, what the political parties are planning to do to make us rapidly reduce pollution and environmental destruction is the key issue in this election.

From my point of view, focussing on “climate” is not as good as focussing on “pollution” and “environmental destruction”. The real problem is the amount of pollution that humans are creating and that includes carbon dioxide, methane and lots of other gases, as well as plastics and discarded junk in land fills. The pollution also comes from our eating habits and our need to clear natural land to feed our habits. Once you talk about “climate” it’s easy for people to point out that the climate of the Earth has changed often during history, even before humans were around. It’s certainly true that the change now is more rapid than it has ever been before, but we still get stuck on the issue of whether it’s really humans causing the climate change. It’s easier to stick to the most obvious fact that humans are polluting the Earth really badly at the moment, as well as blatantly destroying the natural environment to create profits in our financial system.

 

If we’re really going to tackle pollution strongly, politicians need to take a strong stand on issues like additional runways at major airports, specifically Heathrow, and cheap flights. It’s not good to be promoting cheap flights because of the benefit to the economy while, at the same time, these flights are causing enormous pollution to our atmosphere. We have to begin reducing flights, especially short haul flights (so much pollution from take-off and landing for a short flight), right now and quickly. This issue came up in the debate but it wasn’t fully covered to my satisfaction, so I downloaded all the political parties manifestos and examined them for their policies in this direction. This is what I found.

  • Conservative Party [Click here to see the full manifesto]
    • Pollution – mentioned 5 times
      • to reach NetZero by 2050
      • “cut the time aircraft spend waiting to land” – !!I guess that means more runways!!
      • “introduce a new levy to increase the proportion of recyclable plastics in packaging”
      • “establish a new £500 million Blue Planet Fund to help protect our oceans from plastic pollution”
    • Airport – not mentioned, but,
      • “Parliament has voted in principle to support a third runway at Heathrow, but it is a private sector project.”
    • Flight – mentioned once
      • “We will also build on Britain’s pioneering work in electric and low-carbon flight”
  • Labour Party [Click here to see the full manifesto]
    • Pollution – mentioned 3 times
      • “We’ll also take on the global plastics crisis by investing in a new plastics remanufacturing industry creating thousands of jobs, ending exports of plastic waste and reducing our contribution to ocean pollution”
    • Airport – mentioned once
      • “Labour recognises the Davies Commission’s assessment of pressures on airport capacity in the South East. Any expansion of airports must pass our tests on air quality, noise pollution, climate change obligations and countrywide benefits.” – we’ll have new runways then!!
    • Flight – not mentioned
  • Liberal Democrats Party [Click here to see the full manifesto]
    • Pollution – mentioned 5 times
      • “The successful economies of the future will be those which adopt ‘circular economy’ techniques, cutting resource use, waste and pollution by maximising recovery, reuse, recycling and remanufacturing.”
      • “We will introduce a Zero-Waste and Resource Efficiency Act to ensure that the UK moves towards a circular economy”
      • “Banning non-recyclable single-use plastics and replace them with affordable alternatives”
    • Airport – mentioned twice
      • “placing a moratorium on the development of new runways (net) in the UK”
    • Flight – mentioned 4 times
      • “reforming the taxation on international flights”
  • Green Party [Click here to see the full manifesto]
    • Pollution – mentioned 5 times
      • “A circular economy will underpin this green industrial revolution, designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. Recycling and repairing will be made easier for all, reducing the need to buy new, expensive products on a regular basis.”
    • Airport – mentioned once
      • “Scrapping plans for airport expansion across the country”
    • Flight – mentioned 6 times
      • domestic flights to lose VAT exemption
      • lobby to overturn international ban on taxing aviation fuel
      • frequent flyer levy to make it more expensive to fly often
  • Scottish National Party [Click here to see the full manifesto]
    • Pollution – not mentioned
      • There is one paragraph on the “climate emergency”
    • Airport – not mentioned
    • Flight – mentioned 3 times
      • “We all know that aviation contributes to climate change. But we also know that many of Scotland’s remote and rural communities rely on flights.”
      • “committed to making the Highlands and Islands the world’s first net zero aviation region by 2040, with trials of low or zero emission flights”
  • Plaid Cymru – Party of Wales [Click here to see the full manifesto]
    • Pollution – mentioned 6 times
      • “Our energy policy will be geared towards ensuring that our resources are used sustainably, tackling pollution, developing jobs in the post- carbon economy and increasing our energy independence.”
      • There’s a section on “Clean Air”
      • “We will tackle the issue of plastic waste by banning single-use plastics, developing sustainable alternatives and increasing recycling targets.”
    • Airport – not mentioned, but,
      • “Plaid Cymru opposes the construction of a third runway in Heathrow.”
    • Flight – not mentioned

My Conclusions – UK Climate Debate and Pollution

Having a look through these manifesto’s, I’m really disappointed in both the Conservatives and Labour. It doesn’t appear to me that either of them really have the conviction to aggressively tackle out polluting ways and our destruction of natural environments.

To me, clearly the best two manifesto’s regarding pollution and environmental destruction are those of the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats. I guess I’d expect this from the Greens, and I was surprised to see how good the plans of the Liberal Democrats were. I would say that either of these parties would be a significant step forward for the UK. During the televised debate, I was very impressed by Sian Berry (Greens) and Jo Swinson (LibDems). Up until this time Jo Swinson hadn’t impressed me, but she did in this climate debate. Both Sian and Jo appear to be formidable leaders.

Regarding the SNP and Plaid Cymru, I was a little disappointed by their manifesto’s. For example, Plaid Cymru say they’ll oppose the construction of a third runway in Heathrow, but the basis of this is cost and not pollution and environmental concerns. However, during the televised climate debate, the performances of Nicola Sturgeon and Adam Price were quiet good.

Because I passionately believe that pollution and environmental damage is a looming imminent threat to our existence, and this overshadows by far any nationalistic or economic aspirations, I now feel that I could only vote for either the Green Party or the Liberal Democrats. None of the other parties have demonstrated that they really have the conviction to do what we urgently need to do.

I also feel that it’s important that a strong environmental vote is recorded at this election. Hopefully the major political parties (which are actually the weaker ones) will see that they need to change if they are going to continue to attract votes. Brexit doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t change anything important. Reducing pollution and environmental damage does matter – big time – and it was good that the UK had a televised climate debate.

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