The Greens (bless their fairtrade cotton socks) have published a super succinct 26 page manifesto. But is it good enough to win your vote on June 8th?
Brexit and Budget:
Green Brexit policy is identical to Lib Dem Brexit policy: a referendum on the terms of the deal (with the option to remain), guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK (a good thing), remaining in the single market and defending freedom of movement (debatably a good thing, but the option that produces the least uncertainty regarding Horizon-2020 and FP-9 access).
However their barebones manifesto forgets to mention science funding. This means we have to turn to their long term policy page for info. Here, the commitment to raise public R&D spending to 1% of GDP hasn’t changed. If the Greens are sticking with that number, it puts them miles behind Labour, the Lib Dems, and the Conservatives on R&D commitments.
Considering they’re the Green party, you’d expect their manifesto to say more about climate change than a single bullet point:
Active ongoing cooperation with businesses and other countries to limit global temperature increases to well below 2 degrees and aiming for 1.5 degrees.
There isn’t much detail in how they’d do this. The party talk about creating a Green Investment and Innovation Centre to invest in low carbon tech. They also mention investing in vehicle electrification and charging infrastructures, but don’t say how much they’d invest. They’d aim to insulate 9 million homes, but don’t outline measures to encourage homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient like Labour do.
Perhaps details are light because they’re waiting for the selection of research projects looking at ways to keep the world below 1.5oC to be published, or the IPCC’s 2018 report on how governments can achieve 1.5oC warming.
Or maybe they’re pessimistic*. At current emission rates, we don’t have long before we overshoot the 1.5oC target.
To fight climate change, the Greens would vow to keep fossil fuels in the ground. The party would scrap fossil fuel subsidies, and reinstate onshore wind/solar subsidies. Fracking, coal and nuclear power would be phased out, and replaced with renewables.
The party continues to ignore the role nuclear can play in fighting climate change
The Greens would safeguard EU environmental legislation, and car companies who cheated on their partners emissions tests would be hit with a one off fine.
An article in the Economist reveals the UK has one of the worst wild animal preservation levels in Europe. To fight this, a Green government would enhance Green Belt, National Park, SSSI and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty protections. The party would create a new environmental regulator and court to enforce these rules.
Green Belt land often suffers from pollution and farming runoff. A lot of Green Belt land is of poor environmental quality according to a 2007 report by the governments landscape advisor, Natural England. A more recent report shows only 13% of Green Belt land holds important conservation habitats, and that much of it is fragmented (that’s bad). Nevertheless, bird and butterfly species diversity is higher in Green Belt land, and forms part of healthy ecosystems.
Stronger protections for such land in an effort to protect biodiversity are therefore welcome. The party joins everyone else (besides UKIP) in committing to blue belts for marine ecosystems.
The Greens have ambitions to produce networks of interlinking local ecological spaces on both land and sea. Creating such habitat corridors has mixed evidence. A 1998 review of habitat corridors found the data lacking. More recent studies have found they’re an effective way to boost biodiversity (see: here and here).
The party also takes aim at plastic bottle waste, and wants to introduce a bottle deposit scheme. In theory, this system could work better than environmental taxes. In reality, a review of deposit schemes found the policy was limited in reducing marine waste.
Turning to obesity and air pollution, The Kings Fund found health costs from transport amount to £40 billion a year, and lack of exercise costs the NHS £1.1 billion a year. To address this, the Greens will commit £2bn to making cycling and walking more viable for more people.
A Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health report says exposure to outdoor air pollution shortens life by about three days per person, causes respiratory issues in young children, stunts lung development in teenagers, and costs the country £16 billion a year (or 3.7% of GDP if you’re the World Health Organisation) due to the health effects.
To fight air pollution, the Greens (like the Lib Dems) would expand and strengthen clean air zones across towns and cities. Since diesel engines were found the be the most polluting by Which?, the party would aim to phase out diesel via a tax on new diesel cars, and a diesel car scrappage scheme.
Their long term policy still opposes animal testing, which will annoy Britain’s medical researchers.
Green MEP Molly Scott produced a post-Brexit farming plan that, among other things, would raise VAT on meat in an effort to curb consumption (because climate change) and force farmers to label foods that used artificial fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides or are GM (T_T). The party would also boost organic farming, saying it’s better for human health (no), wildlife (kind of/not always) and the environment (3 guesses what I’m gonna say here/here)
The party wants to transplant the EU’s precautionary principle into UK law. In theory, this is a good idea. In practice, it leaves them room to abuse the principle in the same way the EU does (see: here and here)
They remain opposed to GM crops, despite evidence that they’re safe for humans and biodiversity.
So do they deserve my vote?
The party’s ambitious wanting to keep the planet within 1.5oC of warming, but it’d be nice if they had a more detailed plan. They deserve credit for a solid public health plan. They also deserve praise for having a more detailed plan for the environment and biodiversity than other parties – even if it’s flawed.
On Brexit, the party deserves the same praise the Lib Dems got.
On nuclear energy, animal testing, and farming the party continues to put ideology ahead of evidence.
* This remark was facetious.