#GE2017: what the manifestos mean for housing & sustainability

June 5, 2017

The General Election is in 3 days time and there has still been little mention of the environment and housing. Obviously recent events have focused the minds on more tragic and immediate issues. The leadership debates have told us little about what actions the respective parties would take if elected and recent developments in the US have taken much of the attention.

Here Sustainable Homes presents a summary of what the parties have said in their manifestos and what they actually mean as well as our view on whether the combined elements of sustainability and housing have been addressed.

Labour

What the manifesto said

  • ‘A Labour government will put us back on track to meet the targets in the Climate Change Act and the Paris Agreement’
  • Introduce emergency energy price cap on dual-fuel household energy bills
  • Return elements of energy generation and supply to public ownership
  • Ban fracking, whilst pursuing renewable energy projects including tidal lagoons. Also includes a continued commitment nuclear
  • Commitment to fund flood resilience
  • Introduce a new Clean Air Act
  • Will consult on new standards for building ‘zero carbon homes’
  • Prioritise the insulation of 4m homes
  • Offer homeowners interest-free loans to improve their property
  • Cap rent increases in the private sector
  • 1 million new homes overall and 100,000 council and Housing Association homes.

What it meant

There is no doubt that a Labour Government have promised a bold environment programme, but up until the release of the manifesto their environmental policies had been low profile. The focus on public services has been Labour’s main weapon in the campaign. There are some populist undertones – energy price caps and public ownership – but also some confusing messages, for example on nuclear. The fact that insulation gets a mention in manifesto highlights the severity of the issue facing existing stock, but Caroline Lucas, Co-Leader of the Green Party, joked recently that it was great to see so many ideas from the Green Party manifesto from 2015…

Liberal Democrats

What the manifesto said

  • Pass a Green Transport Act and introduce an Air Quality Plan to reduce air pollution. Establish British Housing and Infrastructure Development Bank to mobilise investment into low carbon/sustainable infrastructure
  • Generate 60% electricity from renewables by 2030 (PV and onshore wind)
  • Pass new Green Buildings Act to set energy efficiency targets, aiming for all homes in England to be at least energy rating Band C by 2035
  • Ensure at least 4m homes are Band C by 2022 (prioritising fuel-poor houses) and restore Zero Carbon Standard for new homes
  • Establish £2bn flood prevention fund and introduce high standards of flood resilience for buildings and enable Natural Capital Committee (NCC) to set legally binding natural capital targets
  • Set waste recycling target of 70% in England by 2022
  • 500k affordable, energy efficient homes built by end of Parliament

What it meant

There are a number of similarities to the Labour Manifesto, not least in terms of energy generation and opposition to fracking. The Liberal Democrats however, have developed a comprehensive environmental programme with more detail around homes and zero carbon homes (300k homes per year; 10 garden cities) whilst making a stronger link with housing and environmental policy. As an environmental programme, if it was delivered there would be significant change to the sustainability landscape in the UK.

Plaid Cymru

What the manifesto said

  • Expand the railway network
  • Increase energy generation from renewables – aim would be to have electricity 100% from renewables by 2035
  • Create a Welsh energy company and use profits from resources to cut energy cost for consumers and to shift towards decentralised/distributed networks
  • Update and consolidate wildlife legislation via a new Wildlife Act for Wales, and continue to call for a Welsh Animal Abuse Register
  • Introduce a new Climate Change Act, with ambitious but achievable targets for 2030 and 2050
  • Build upon the EU targets and reduce plastic waste with a deposit return scheme
  • Introduce a fuel duty regulator to stop rising fuel costs
  • Roll out a nationwide housing stock retrofit scheme
  • Secure compensation for those who have suffered from badly installed government-backed cavity wall insulation

What it meant

Plaid Cymru’s manifesto places relatively little emphasis on sustainability policies. Unsurprisingly the manifesto devotes its attention to Wales and the importance of Welsh priorities within Britain. The environmental policies that it does lay out are far from half-hearted however. It promises electricity that is entirely generated by renewables by 2035 and a national electric vehicle charging network alongside increases in rail infrastructure. The proposal of a fuel regulator seems at odds with the larger revolution in electric vehicles and renewables, but this is a manifesto based on protecting Wales’ interests than presenting a bold environmental programme. And whilst they are dismissive of the major parties, the areas in which they make their environmental commitments are very similar to the Labour Party, if no where near as ambitious.

The Conservative Party 

What the manifesto said

  • National Productivity Investment Fund. The government will target this spending at areas that are critical for productivity including housing
  • Commission an independent review into the Cost of Energy
  • Commitment to meeting 2050 carbon reduction targets
  • Upgrade energy infrastructure and establish an industrial energy efficiency scheme
  • Develop the shale industry in Britain as part of a diverse energy mix
  • Britain to lead the world in electric vehicle technology and use. Almost every car and van to be zero-emission by 2050
  • Smart meters will be offered to every household and business by the end of 2020
  • Creating extra capacity on the railways
  • Upgrading all fuel poor homes to EPC Band C by 2030
  • Energy price cap
  • Review of standards for new homes
  • 5 million new homes by 2022
  • Continued commitment to flood defence programme

What it meant

The Conservative manifesto is, unsurprisingly, the one that reverts back to the safest issues around energy and presents the least ambition of the parties in terms of an environmental programme. The criticism of this manifesto is its slightly vague nature – unlike Labour’s ‘fully costed’ version. It rightly identifies two key issues however, housing quality and productivity in the sector and the need to invest in UK energy infrastructure. The populist energy price cap makes an appearance, but it remains to be seen whether harder to tackle policies such as upgrading poor housing and taking on housebuilders to increase quality will be delivered.

The Scottish National Party

What the manifesto said

  • Reaffirming commitment to offshore, onshore and tidal technology
  • Development of carbon capture and storage technology
  • Reforming the transmission charges regime to make it fairer for renewable energy
  • Opposed to the development of new nuclear power, namely Hinkley C
  • Committed to keeping environmental protections and legislation in place post-Brexit
  • Introduction of a fuel duty regulator
  • Continued public funding for energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority

What it meant

Scotland has rightly become known for its progressive sustainability policies, creating the right conditions for a real energy mix and better environment. This manifesto was however, underwhelming. There were no real surprises, possibly because of the high bar already set, but there a real vision for a low carbon Scotland didn’t appear in this document. More of a missed opportunity than an outright failure, but it is obvious that Brexit has dominated the content within this manifesto.

The Green Party

What the manifesto said

  • Introduce an Environmental Protection Act
  • Introduce a public works programme of insulation and investment in flood defences and natural flood management
  • Active ongoing cooperation with businesses and other countries to limit global temperature increases to well below 2 degrees and aiming for 1.5 degrees.
  • Replacing fracking, coal power stations, subsidies to fossil fuels and nuclear with the clean green efficient renewable energy
  • Create a new Clean Air Act, expanding and funding a mandatory clean air zone network.
  • Tough action to reduce plastic and other waste, including the introduction of Deposit Return Schemes, with a zero waste target.
  • A major programme to build affordable, zero carbon homes, including 100,000 social rented homes each year by 2022.
  • Invest in regional rail links and electrification of existing rail lines, especially in the South West and North of England, rather than investing in HS2

What it meant

The Green Party Manifesto avoided the bold numbers focused approach of the Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos and provided a more succinct and focused vision for environmentalism. Given that it is unlikely that the Green Party will be the ruling party in 2017, the role of this manifesto is to influence the debate – something that they have stated their 2015 manifesto has had on the Labour Manifesto of 2017.

 

This is a difficult time to be holding an election – Brexit, security issues, public services and economic uncertainty have dominated the debate. Environmental issues and housing have not featured in the debate as much as it could have done. Needless to say there are a number of coming challenges in both these areas which only some of the manifestos properly address.

Bevan Jones

Bevan Jones

Bevan is the managing director of Sustainable Homes. Bevan's areas of expertise are: Climate change adaptation | Climate change and business planning | Sustainable organisations | Carbon management | Sustainability strategy | Consultancy