Struggling to decide who to vote for in the local elections on Thursday May 2? Don’t worry, as all this week, Blue & Green Tomorrow is outlining the energy, environment and investment credentials of all five major parties.
We’ve already covered the big three: the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats in this mini-series. Next up is the Green party – which has grown in popularity in recent years, and whose leader as of September 2012 is Natalie Bennett.
For a full list of local authorities that are voting, and for more details on the elections more generally, see here.
Green New Deal
For the Green party of England and Wales, the cornerstone of its governing policies is the Green New Deal (not to be confused with the coalition’s flagship energy efficiency scheme, the green deal), which “is all about investing massively to create jobs and move towards a sustainable, zero-carbon economy”.
Upon examination of the party’s 2010 manifesto, it is clear to see that it champions renewable and low-carbon energy.
“Affordable and renewable electricity will be generated, stored and distributed as close to users as possible, with maximum local control”, it says.
“Instead of shackling our nation with expensive new nuclear power and environmentally reckless shale gas, we will control energy bills and create more jobs by investing in warm and efficient homes, energy storage and smart grids and in renewable energy supply, owned by public, private and community enterprises.
“We will ensure energy resilience by expanding our international grid interconnectors.”
On climate change, it adds, “A Green government will take bold, responsible and scientifically credible action to avoid catastrophic climate change.
“We will apply a contraction and convergence strategy to reduce emissions to a safe and equal per-capita level. Pursuing the necessary annual reductions of around 10% will create many jobs.
“We will provide free monthly carbon emission allowances and people wanting to use more than their fair share could trade allowances. Total emissions will be capped and will reduce each year in line with our 2030 emission reduction target of 90% on 1990 levels.”
For the Green party, banking reform starts with the very meaning of ‘GDP’ and ‘economy’. The Greens therefore look to “abandon gross domestic product as the key measure of economic success, and seek instead to increase our overall welfare”.
Its manifesto says, “‘Gross Domestic Product’ measures all the economic activity in Britain – even the money spent on picking up the pieces of our unfair and unsustainable society.
“Prisons and pollution are as ‘productive’ as schools and sanitation in the world of conventional economics.”
This includes an environmental taxation where “those most able to pay bear their fair share”.
Similar to the big three political parties, the Greens also pledged to found a Green Investment Bank in order to set the standard for financial institutions. However, it was to then supplement the bank by creating local community banks in the financial sector, as well as new ways of investing in the green economy, such as green national savings bonds.
“Green MPs will fight to move the management of money from the casino capitalism underlying the current collapse to productive, useful investment. This will relieve unemployment and kick-start the move towards a zero-carbon energy system.
“It will stabilise the economy generally, lead to new and attractive ways of investing personal savings and pension funds, create more fairness, and bring back a sense of purpose to an economy characterised by drift, profiteering and consumerism.
“To protect our economy we will separate retail and investment banking and limit the size of banks.”
The Green party does of course prioritise environmental and energy concerns above all else, as demonstrated by the Green New Deal already mentioned.
One of the policies at the forefront of the party is reforming the tax system, putting far greater emphasis on taxes that discourage environmentally or socially damaging behaviour than ever seen before in government.
Such taxes include raising fuel duty by 8% a year, VAT and fuel duty on aviation, as well as increasing the climate change levy and landfill tax. Such rises were estimated to raise £16.5 billion in 2010 alone.
Other taxes include new taxes on use of water by businesses and waste heat from power stations.
Furthermore, the Greens planned to invest £2 billion a year to introduce incentives to encourage homes to become more energy self-sufficient by introducing incentives aiming for solar roofs, as well as generous feed-in tariffs for micro-generation. This would have in turn created 40,000 jobs in installation industries.
Providing energy education for young children and those unaware of the benefits was also something pledged in the 2010 manifesto. The party wanted to introduce children to “renewable technologies at school by ensuring that most schools get the bulk of their energy from on-site renewable sources”.
Another Green party reform was on the concept of recycling. Although important, the party was quick to point out that recycling should be the last form of waste prevention.
“Reduce, reuse – and only then recycle” was stated in bold in the 2010 manifesto, with an overall aim of recycling 70% of domestic waste by 2015. This was planned to be achieved through providing free compost bins for anyone that asked, as well as designing products with better and more recyclable packaging.
At the centre of Green party environment policy are the three Rs – remove, reduce, replace. This involves removing demand wherever possible, followed by reducing demand, and accounting for any demand left for energy with renewables.
The Green party is strongly against nuclear energy, with the intention to completely phase existing plants out and oppose any new-builds. Instead, the Greens believe strongly in wind
Its manifesto says, “Carbon isn’t the only footprint we have. We have water footprints, and other footprints too.
“Added together, these different footprints add up to our total ecological impact.”
In order to achieve renewables investment and the application of renewable energy in homes, the Green party intended to “enlarge and develop renewable energy feed-in tariffs paying premium rates for large and small producers of renewable electricity”.
Joseph Iddison is a student in his final year of an English degree at the University of Leicester.