General Election 2019

What the political parties say about ecology and the natural environment

Conservative and Unionist Party

In the Conservative Party manifesto, Boris Johnson says: “We want to get Brexit done so that we can get on with our work of making Britain the greatest place in the world … – with the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on Earth”. The manifesto says that they will “prioritise the environment in the next Budget.”

Environmental pledges include:

  • An Environment Bill will protect and restore the natural environment after leaving the EU.
  • Set up a new independent Office for Environmental Protection.
  • Set up a new £640 million new Nature for Climate fund.
  • Create a Great Northumberland Forest, along with an additional 75,000 acres of trees a year by the end of the next Parliament, and also restore peatland.
  • Following the Glover Review, new National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty will be created.

No changes will be made to the Hunting Act.

On climate change, they “will lead the global fight against climate change by delivering on our world-leading target of Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as advised by the independent Committee on Climate Change” and use the UN Climate Change Summit in Glasgow in 2020 to encourage others to match this ambition.

Internationally, the Conservatives will “set up new international partnerships to tackle deforestation and protect vital landscapes and wildlife corridors. We will establish a new £500 million Blue Planet Fund to help protect our oceans from plastic pollution, warming sea temperatures and overfishing, and extend the Blue Belt programme to preserve the maritime environment. We will continue to lead diplomatic efforts to protect 30 per cent of the world’s oceans by 2030.“

The Conservatives will, post-Brexit, move to a farming system based on ‘public money for public goods’. In return for funding, farmers “must farm in a way that protects and enhances our natural environment, as well as safeguarding high standards of animal welfare.”

For fisheries, there “will be a legal commitment to fish sustainably and a legal requirement for a plan to achieve maximum sustainable yield for each stock.”

The Conservative manifesto pledges, in trade negotiations, to “not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.”


Labour Party

After Jeremy Corbyn’s introduction, the Labour Party manifesto opens with: “This election is about the crisis of living standards and the climate and environmental emergency.”

A Labour government’s Green Industrial Revolution would be complemented by a Plan for Nature. They say that commitments to ecosystem repair and environmental protections work hand in hand with sustainable jobs and industries, and social justice. The Plan for Nature will set legally binding targets to drive the restoration of species and habitats.

Labour will review and improve protected area designations, from National Parks to local nature reserves and urban green spaces. They will create new National Parks alongside a revised system of other protected area designations, which will guard existing wildlife sites and join up important habitats, while also ensuring more people can enjoy living closer to nature.

Labour will introduce a Climate and Environment Emergency Bill setting out in law robust, binding new standards for decarbonisation, nature recovery, environmental quality and habitats and species protection.

They will embark on an ambitious programme of tree planting, with both forestry and native woodland species.

They will require local governments to factor the climate and environmental emergency into all planning decisions.

Labour will fully fund the Environment Agency and other frontline environment agencies, and improve upstream river management.

Labour will maintain and continuously improve the existing EU standards of environmental regulation.

They will establish a new environmental tribunal to ensure that administrative decisions are consistent with environmental and nature-recovery obligations.

A Labour government will maintain agricultural and rural structural funds but repurpose them to support environmental land management and sustainable methods of food production.

They will ban foxhunting and end the badger cull.

In England, Labour will introduce an animal welfare commissioner, and prohibit the sale of snares and glue traps.

Labour will boost police resources to tackle rural and wildlife crime.

Labour will create a Sustainable Investment Board to bring together the Chancellor, Business Secretary and Bank of England Governor to oversee, co-ordinate and bring forward this investment. They will ask the Office for Budget Responsibility to incorporate climate and environmental impacts into its forecasts so that the cost of not acting will be factored into every fiscal decision. In addition, they will launch a National Transformation Fund of £400 billion and rewrite the Treasury’s investment rules to guarantee that every penny spent is compatible with climate and environmental targets.

School pupils will learn both the science of climate and environmental emergency, and the skills necessary to deal with them.

Labour will secure a new Brexit deal that protects the environment. They will continue participation in EU agencies and funding programmes, including in the environment and scientific research. They will also secure robust and legally binding protections for the environment, and reject any trade agreements that undermine environmental protections.


Scottish National Party

The SNP manifesto says that “perhaps most urgently, the environment cannot continue to suffer the impact of unrestricted economic growth that has led to the climate emergency now facing the planet.”

The SNP will campaign for the UK to remain aligned with EU environmental regulations, even if Brexit takes place.

The manifestos also says: “EU regulation over animal and plant health and environmental and food safety gives Scotland access to export markets around the world. SNP MPs will support the Scottish Government’s efforts to maintain all these current standards and regulations.”

The SNP will “press for an increase in new woodland creation, working towards a target of 60 million trees planted annually in the UK by 2025, with 30 million of these in Scotland to help tackle the Climate Emergency and to support biodiversity and rural employment.”

Scotland has the world’s most ambitious emissions reductions targets in law, but we can only end our contribution to climate change if the UK Government plays its part and meets its targets. SNP MPs will demand the UK matches Scotland’s ambition, meets its Paris Climate Agreement responsibilities and sticks to future EU emission standards – regardless of our position within the EU.


Liberal Democrats

The LibDem manifesto says, on saving nature and the countryside, that they will:

  • Introduce a Nature Act to restore the natural environment through setting legally binding near-term and long-term targets for improving water, air, soil and biodiversity, and supported by funding streams of at least £18 billion over five years.
  • Combat climate change, and benefit nature and people by coordinating the planting of 60 million trees a year and introducing requirements for the greater use of sustainably harvested wood in construction.
  • Invest in large-scale restoration of peatlands, heathland, native woodlands, saltmarshes, wetlands and coastal waters, helping to absorb carbon, protect against floods, improve water quality and protect habitats, including through piloting ‘rewilding’
  • Reduce basic agricultural support payments to the larger recipients and redeploy the savings to support the public goods that come from effective land management, including restoring nature and protecting the countryside, preventing flooding and combating climate change through measures to increase soil carbon and expand native woodland.
  • Significantly increase the amount of accessible green space, including protecting up to a million acres, completing the coastal path, exploring a ‘right to roam’ for waterways and creating a new designation of National Nature Parks.
  • Give the Local Green Space designation the force of law.
  • Protect and restore England’s lakes, rivers and wetlands, including through reform of water management and higher water efficiency standards, and establish a ‘blue belt’ of marine protected areas covering at least 50% of UK waters by 2030, in partnership with UK overseas territories.
  • Create a new ‘British Overseas Ecosystems Fund’ for large-scale environmental restoration projects in the UK Overseas Territories and sovereign bases, home to 94% of our unique wildlife.
  • Establish a £5 billion fund for flood prevention and climate adaptation over the course of the parliament to improve flood defences.
  • Ensure that sustainability lies at the heart of fisheries policy, rebuilding depleted fish stocks to achieve their former abundance. Fishers, scientists and conservationists should all be at the centre of a decentralised and regionalised fisheries management system.
  • Increase the budget for Defra, ensuring that agencies such as Natural England and the Environment Agency are properly funded.

On animal welfare, they will “ensure that the National Wildlife Crime Unit is properly funded“, “[d]evelop safe, effective, humane, and evidence-based ways of controlling bovine TB, including by investing to produce workable vaccines” and “[w]ork within the EU to ensure that future trade agreements require high environmental and animal welfare standards…”.

The LibDem manifesto says, in relation to investment and business, that they will “will ensure that the National Infrastructure Commission takes fully into account the climate and environmental implications of all national infrastructure decisions” and that they will “[i]ntroduce a general duty of care for the environment and human rights.” They will also “[e]nsure that the environment is protected for future generations with clean air to breathe and urgent action to tackle the climate emergency.”

On education, they will introduce a “curriculum for life” in all state-funded schools, which will include environmental awareness.

In relation to climate action, some of the LibDem pledges include:

  • Establish a Department for Climate Change and Natural Resources, appoint a cabinet-level Chief Secretary for Sustainability in the Treasury to coordinate government-wide action to make the economy sustainable resource-efficient and zero-carbon, and require every government agency to account for its contribution towards meeting climate targets.
  • Create a statutory duty on all local authorities to produce a Zero Carbon Strategy, including plans for local energy, transport and land use, and devolve powers and funding to enable every council to implement it.
  • Guarantee an Office of Environmental Protection that is fully independent of government, and possesses powers and resources to enforce compliance with climate and environmental targets.
  • Increase government expenditure on climate and environmental objectives, reaching at least 5% of the total within five years.

The LibDem’s global ambitions include:

  • Supporting the Paris Agreement by playing a leadership role in international efforts to combat climate change, demonstrating commitment by rapidly reducing emissions from the UK economy, increasing development spending on climate objectives and aiming to persuade all countries to commit to net zero climate goals by the 2020 UN climate conference in Glasgow.
  • Using the UK’s role in the EU to tackle the climate emergency, by setting a binding, EU-wide net zero target of 2050.
  • Strengthening climate and environmental goals in EU trade and investment agreements and refusing to enter any trade agreements with countries that have policies counter to the Paris Agreement, including the Mercosur-EU free trade agreement because of the Brazilian government’s actions in the Amazon.
  • Arguing for ambitious new legally binding international targets to protect global biodiversity, and an effective global oceans treaty to create a network of ocean sanctuaries. And also providing greater resources for international environmental cooperation, particularly on actions to tackle illegal and unsustainable trade in timber, wildlife, ivory, and fish.
  • Cooperating with the UK’s European and global partners in tackling the climate and environmental emergencies.
  • Increasing the proportion of the aid budget committed to tackling climate change and environmental degradation.


Green Party

The Green Party manifesto pledges to integrate a Green New Deal to restore nature and the countryside. This includes:

  • Create a new ‘ecocide’ law to prevent crimes against the natural environment.
  • Amend the National Planning Policy Framework so it no longer imposes centrally set development targets on local councils.
  • Strengthen Green Belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest protections, with development in these areas only being permitted in exceptional circumstances.
  • Ban mineral extraction, road building and military training from all National Parks. They will create new democratically elected positions on National Park boards.
  • Open up car-free access to the National Parks with new cycling, walking and bus links.
  • Encourage applications from communities for new Green Belt, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Park designations.
  • Create a new Environmental Protection Commission (EPC). This will be one integrated body to enforce environmental protections. The EPC will enforce the ecocide law, a new Clean Air Act, which will set new air quality standards for the UK, and a new Sustainable Economy Act, including targets for new soil quality and biodiversity standards.
  • Develop a soil health monitoring programme for England, to match those in Scotland and Wales, to assess and understand changes in the health of soil over time.
  • Increase funding for the Environment Agency and Natural England, to support the vital work they do to protect our environment.
  • Immediately ban the most harmful pesticides (including glyphosate) and introduce new rigorous tests for pesticides. Only pesticides that pass this test, and demonstrably don’t harm bees, butterflies and other wildlife, will be approved for use in UK.
  • Invest in peatland restoration and end both the burning of peatlands and use of peat in compost in horticulture. Advocate for an emergency international agreement to conserve and enhance carbon sinks and reservoirs including forests, peat fields and coastal and estuarine areas.
  • Restore access to the countryside by re-opening lost public rights of way and creating new ones. They will grant to people in England and Wales the same right to roam over all landscapes as people in Scotland currently enjoy. They will protect and enhance access to inland waterways.
  • Invest in ecotourism and associated schemes such as rewilding, habitat recovery and species reintroduction, creating new job opportunities.
  • Introduce new support for small-scale family farms and for new entrants to farming. This support, including increased security of tenure for farmers, will help develop sustainable farming methods. Farmers will be supported to adopt diverse uses for agricultural land and buildings, such as planting orchards and other woodland. The incorporation of trees into farming will provide new crops such as fruits and nuts, as well as timber, linking forestry and farming industries. A more densely wooded and hedged farming landscape will provide new habitats for wildlife, and sanctuaries for threatened species.
  • As a member of the EU, they will press for a review of the Common Agricultural Policy, so that it is focussed on supporting UK and other EU farmers as they make the transition to sustainable farming.
  • Commit to making at least 30% of UK domestic waters into fully protected marine protected areas by 2030. They will also work with British Overseas Territories (BOTs) to increase the ‘blue belt’ protecting BOTs’ waters from commercial extraction, from the current 32% of coverage to 50%.
  • Reintroduce nature into our urban environments, by investing in schemes such as street planting of native trees, compulsory hedgehog holes in all new fencing and bee corridors.
  • Recognise access to diverse nature as a human right and uphold it across society.
  • Create a Nature GCSE to encourage children to value nature, and to grow a whole new generation of naturalists. They will also introduce an English Climate Emergency Education Act to support schools to teach young people about the urgency, severity and scientific basis of the climate and environmental crises, and to ensure youth voices are heard on climate issues.


Plaid Cymru

The Plaid Cymru manifesto says that they will bring forward legislation to tackle the extinction crisis, placing a legal obligation on this and future governments to act for the recovery of nature. Furthermore, they will secure robust, independent governance and accountability processes to uphold the law and stand up for our environment.

They will support greater transition to organic and other sustainable farming systems, and develop plans for renewable energy that operate in harmony with nature by identifying ecologically sustainable sites for offshore and onshore wind energy development, as well as potential areas for solar and tidal energy development. This will be a cornerstone of their ‘Welsh Energy Atlas’, which will show where different forms of energy resources would have the least ecological impact, as well as potential sites for nature redevelopment and conservation.

To tackle climate change, Plaid Cymru want to substantially increase the acreage of Welsh forestry, aiming for a minimum planting rate of 2,000 hectares a year from 2020, a target recommended by the UK Climate Change Committee. Plaid Cymru recognizes that increasing native tree woodlands contributes to carbon capture, flood control, providing wildlife habitat, improving landscape quality, and timber products. They will examine the case for establishing a dedicated forestry organization to undertake the urgent task of addressing the Climate Emergency by planting more trees, and ensure that this policy is closely connected with agri-environment incentives for farmers.

On farming, Plaid Cymru wants to retain a direct payment scheme. They believe that more must be done to tackle bovine TB, including being “more effective in tackling TB in wildlife” and continuing the badger cull.

Plaid Cymru supports a strong UN Global Ocean Treaty capable of creating a network of ocean sanctuaries covering at least 30% of oceans by 2030. This should involve an immediate moratorium on deep sea mining.

Plaid Cymru proposes the establishment of a new Ministry for the Future. In the Senedd, there is already a dedicated Shadow Minister for the Future. As well as surveying the broad policy environment, the Minister will be tasked with taking a long-term view of our environment, with responsibility to: ensure that Wales transitions to a low carbon, nature friendly economy; develops a package of environmental and fiscal reforms to aid the transition to a greener economy; and encourages private sector investment in new green technologies.

Internationally, Plaid Cymru will legislate to end the importation of goods that have caused deforestation, invest in Overseas Development Aid that supports a transition to ecologically friendly farming, require that imported palm oil comes from sustainable sources, and ban imports of soy, beef and other agri-commodities from illegally deforested land.

Plaid Cymru says that any future trade deals undertaken by the UK, inside or outside the EU, should maintain and enhance environmental standards, minimize the environmental footprint of trade and make trade terms explicitly subject to environmental and human rights commitments. There should be specific protections for vital global ecosystems and habitats such as the Amazon, and for indigenous people.


Brexit Party

The Brexit Party’s Contract with the People says that they will support “investment in key public services, the environment, fishing and strategic industries – partly financed by saving our annual contribution to the EU.” They pledge to plant “millions of trees to capture CO2” and “promote a global initiative at the UN”. In addition, they will “recycle our own waste and make it illegal for it to be exported across the world to be burnt, buried or dumped at sea.