With the General Election only a week away, the Green – Alliance hosted an event on Tuesday in which Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Party spokespeople had the chance to set out their ambitions on the natural environment, climate change, international environmental leadership and what leaving the EU will mean for the environment. This is the only hustings surrounding the environment and gave the public a chance to grill the parties on their recently published manifestos. EAM covered the event to see what they had to say…
Conservatives – Dr Thérèse Coffey (right), Parliamentary undersecretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs and Conservative parliamentary candidate for Suffolk Coastal
The Tories position on leaving the EU is clear, ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and has continued to suggest that no deal on leaving the EU is better than a bad deal. Despite that, the current election favourites promise that environmental protections currently provisioned by EU law, will continue in UK law as we exit. They recognise that the UK is at the forefront of action against global climate change and intend to continue to meet the international goal of an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050.
Throughout the Hustings, Dr Coffey reiterated the party’s intentions of clean growth and being the first government to leave the environment in a better state than the one they inherited and described their commitment to improving all fuel poor homes to an EPC rating of at least a C by 2030. Welcoming news to us energy assessors as EPCs sound like they are certainly here to stay long after Brexit. When questioned by the audience ‘what will save people more money – capping fuel prices or retrofitting homes to improve energy efficiency?’ Dr Coffey firmly stated that improving the energy efficiency of homes is pivotal to Britain’s zero carbon future. The Tory rep was criticised by Barry Gardiner of labour who claimed that the Tories set goals and outline intentions but do not actually provide an implementation plan to do so.
Labour – Barry Gardiner (left), Shadow secretary of state for international trade and shadow minister for climate change and Labour parliamentary candidate for Brent North
Despite agreeing that Brexit should mean Brexit, Labour claims that no deal on leaving the EU is the worst possible scenario. The party wants to continue to co-operate with the EU and ensure that current environmental standards are protected. According to the 2017 manifesto, the insulation of four million homes will be an infrastructure priority and will be accompanied by interest free loans for landlords to improve property and the improvement of landlord energy efficiency regulation.
Like the Tories, Labour also agreed that retrofitting Britain’s fuel poor properties is imperative when questioned on fuel price capping VS retrofitting. Mr Gardiner stating “Energy Efficiency is fundamentally the most important thing we should be doing right now” and even though the MEES regulations had not been discussed in the debate, it seems like there is continued optimism surrounding the regulations regardless of the election result. Labour has been accredited with forming the idea of fuel price capping in the UK as a means of limiting the power of the big 6 energy companies, but admitted that this is now of secondary importance after retrofitting. Mr Gardiner furthered his statement saying that Labour aims to insulate 4 million homes if elected to not only improve the housing stocks efficiency but also as a means of providing thousands of skilled job opportunities.
Liberal Democrats – Baroness Parminter (right), Liberal Democrat spokesperson for environment, food and rural affairs
The Liberal Democrats accept the results of the 2016 referendum but want to put the final EU deal to another public vote. Baroness Parminter explained how she believes that Brexit poses more threats than opportunities when it comes to the environment. Either way, they promise to maintain high environmental standards and ensure the closest possible co-operation with the EU on climate change in the future.
The Lib Dem representative claimed that the Labour and Conservative parties attempt to ‘fiddle with the market’ by capping fuel prices has been ineffective and that retrofitting will provide a large contribution to alleviating Britain’s fuel poverty issues. Similarly to Labour, the Lib Dems intend to retrofit 4 million homes by the end of this parliament if elected and introduce a green buildings act; The Green Buildings Act will set new targets including all homes to be EPC band C by 2035, four million properties to receive insulation retrofits by 2022 and the reintroduction of zero carbon standards for new homes. Baroness Parminter also highlighted the party’s intentions to reinstate the ‘Zero Carbon Homes’ standards which had previously been scrapped when they lost their tenure within the coalition government.
Greens – Caroline Russell, Green London Assembly member, spokesperson on transport and parliamentary candidate for Islington North
The Greens have made things slightly simpler by releasing their own environment manifesto. In it, they pledge that all existing EU environmental laws, including principles, will be maintained as the UK leaves the EU. The party will ensure the UK meets its international climate commitments as well as working towards a global temperature rise of below 1.5 degrees. It pledges to ban fracking, phase out fossil fuel use, bring forward the coal phase-out and support onshore wind and solar power. The party wants to create a Green Investment and Innovation Centre, introduce a national programme of insulation and retrofitting of existing housing and ensure all new homes are zero carbon by 2020.
Many of Caroline Russell’s response centred around the party’s desire to leave all fossil fuels in the ground “where they belong” and revolutionise public transport so personal cars become of less importance. The Greens rep added that decarbonising transport and properly insulating homes are two of the most important steps to take and would be achieved through their tenure.
Check out the full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svKAL859ohM