The UK must lead the world in tackling the climate emergency. That’s the message from the Lib Dems as we head for the 12 December election. We are the first generation to know that we are destroying the environment and the last generation with the chance to do anything about it. Climate change and the collapse of natural systems are huge crises but they also represent a massive opportunity to create a different future, where people breathe clean air, drink clean water and use clean energy, where communities and industries live in harmony with nature, not at its expense. We must mobilise every community in the country and the resources of both the public and private sector to achieve it. We must turn the birthplace of the industrial revolution into the home of the new Green Revolution.
The Lib Dems are planning a ten-year emergency programme to cut emissions substantially to achieve the net zero climate objective. Emissions from the hard to tackle sectors will be phased out by 2045 at the latest.
It is vital to protect nature and the countryside and tackle biodiversity loss. We must plant 60 million trees a year to absorb carbon, protect wildlife and improve health. A new Nature Act will set binding targets for improving water, air, soil and biodiversity, with an investment of at least £18 billion over five years. This will include large scale restoration of peatlands, heathland, native woodlands, saltmarshes, wetlands and coastal waters and pilots of rewilding.
Accessible green space will be significantly increased, new National Nature Parks created and up to a million acres protected. The coastal path will be completed. Lib Dems will explore a ‘right to roam’ for waterways. England’s lakes, rivers and wetlands will be protected and restored, including through reform of water management and higher water efficiency standards. A National Fund for Coastal Change will be created to enable local authorities to properly manage their changing coastlines. There will be large scale environmental restoration projects in UK overseas territories.
Agricultural support payments to big landowners will be reduced. The savings will support public goods – including restoring nature and protecting the countryside, preventing flooding, combating climate change by increasing soil carbon and expanding native woodland. A National Food Strategy will be published.
The Lib Dems will improve standards of animal health and welfare in agriculture. Caged hens will be banned. Safe, effective, humane, and evidence-based ways of controlling bovine TB will be developed, including workable vaccines. The principle of animal sentience will be enshrined in law. There will be stronger penalties for animal cruelty, along with a ban on sale of real fur, keeping primates as pets and independent regulator to protect racehorses.
Over five years, £5 billion will be invested in flood prevention. Higher building standards for flood resilience will be brought in. Marine protected areas will be expanded to create a blue belt covering at least 50 per cent of UK waters by 2030, including those in overseas territories. A sustainable fisheries policy will ensure fishers, scientists and conservationists are at the centre of decentralised and regionalised fisheries management.
The power sector will be completely decarbonised. Renewables will supply at least 80 per cent electricity by 2030. All fossil subsidies will end by 2025. Affected communities will be supported with a Just Transition fund. Fracking will be planned permanently. Community and decentralised energy will be expanded. All new homes will be fitted with solar panels.
A Zero-Waste and Resource Efficiency Act will ensure that the UK moves faster towards a circular economy ending the “throwaway society” culture. Legally binding targets will reduce use of key natural resources. The statutory recycling target will be raised to 70 per cent. By 2024, 90 per cent of homes will have separate food waste collection. Non-recyclable single use plastics will be eliminated and incentives put in place to reduce packaging. The Lib Dems aim to end plastic waste exports by 2030. Deposit return schemes will cover all food and drink bottles and containers.
An emergency programme will insulate all Britain’s homes by 2030, cutting emissions and fuel bills and ending fuel poverty for 2.5 million households in England. Investment in home insultation and zero carbon heating will be increased to £6 billion a year within five years. By 2021, all new homes to be built to a zero carbon standard ensuring as much energy is renewably generated on site as is used. This will rise to Passivhaus standard by 2025. A Zero-Carbon Heat Strategy will require the phased installation of heat pumps in homes and businesses off the gas grid.
The Lib Dems propose a wide range of measures to decarbonise transport, promote walking and cycling and achieve a model shift from roads to sustainable transport. My on briefing on transport will be published later.
Government spending on climate and environmental objectives will rise to at least 5 per cent of the budget within five years. A Department for Climate Change and Natural Resources will be set up. A Chief Secretary for Sustainability in the Treasury will coordinate government-wide action to make the economy sustainable, resource efficient and zero carbon. The budget for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will be increased. A new Green Investment Bank will established. Green procurement in the public sector will be increased.
UK and local Citizens’ Climate Assemblies will engage the public in tackling the climate emergency. All local authorities will have a duty to produce a Zero Carbon Strategy. Powers and funding will be devolved to all councils to implement the strategy.
The Lib Dems will guarantee the proposed Office of Environmental Protection is fully independent of government and has the powers and resources to enforce compliance with climate and environmental targets.
Investment will support innovation in tidal and wave power, energy storage, demand response, smart grids, hydrogen power, and low carbon processes for cement and steel production. New Catapult innovation and technology centres will be commissioned for farming and land use, and for carbon dioxide capture and removal. Support for innovation in zero emission technologies, including batteries and hydrogen fuel cells will be increased. The government’s funding will be backed by a Clean Air Fund from industry.
This is a summary of the main policy points. For the full text and commitments, see the Lib Dem manifesto: Stop Brexit, Build a Brighter Future.