John McKay

01 Apr 2019 09:00


  1. Introduction
  2. Justifications
  3. The Five Green Laws
  4. Related Policies
  5. Local Policies
  6. References

1 Introduction

The Lib Dems have developed a range of so-called Green Policies which have received a great deal of support from a variety of independent organisations. For instance:

Friends of the Earth campaigner Dave Timms said: “These are welcome and ambitious measures to end the scandal of food waste and make efficient use of our natural resources.” Green Running and ETIndex Chairman James Cameron and 21 other leading green business owners and environmentalists say Lib Dems are best for the environment (ref 14).

This post pulls these policies together and summarises the local policies that are relevant to South Hams in section 5.

Currently, a proposed legislative framework, generally referred to as the Five Green Laws, forms the background to the green policies, as articulated in the 2017 manifesto (ref 2) and other supporting policy statements. However, all these policies are under review and the emphasis is likely to change. Of particular note is the Climate Change Policy Working Group (see below). For the purposes of this exercise the following just considers the current extant policy set.

The references section lists the key documents. Sections 1 to 4 attempt to give some background, while section 5 is a set of local green policies.

1.1 Climate Change Policy Working Group

The remit of this group is to build on policy 109 (ref 10 ) and the Climate Change report (ref 11) and will consider the following areas:

  • Electricity generation and transmission.
  • Heating.
  • Energy efficiency, including in particular that of housing.
  • Industrial greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Decarbonising road transport and promoting a shift to public transport.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from land use, and in particular agriculture.
  • The scope for negative emission options.
  • The institutional arrangements necessary to deliver this ambitious climate strategy, including support for green innovation, finance and international development, the use of taxation, and reforms to the machinery of government.

2 Justifications

The justifications for green policies are mostly obvious but the following are those that have been cited in LD policies and statements:

  • Climate change is a real and pressing emergency. 2017 is the 41st consecutive year in which global surface temperatures exceeded the twentieth-century average. 2016 saw atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide reach a level not seen for 800,000 years. Extreme weather driven by climate change is placing one in six homes in Britain at risk of serious flooding.

  • More than 3,000 people die each year in the UK because they cannot afford to properly heat their homes; the UK has the second worst rate of excess winter deaths in Europe.

  • Air pollution contributes to 40,000 premature deaths a year and costs the NHS £15 billion; more than 4.5 million children in the UK are growing up in areas with toxic levels of air pollution. The government has now lost three court cases over its inadequate plans to tackle the problem.

  • UK investment in clean energy fell by 56 per cent in 2017, although worldwide spending on renewables climbed by 3 per cent, and in China by 25 per cent. Investment in renewables rose every year during the coalition government.

  • In May 2018 the government announced their intention to open the way to fracking, allowing drilling for shale gas without the need for planning applications, environmental impact assessments or any local democratic say.

  • Although nearly 5 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated in the UK each year, just 50 per cent of plastic bottles and 12–15 per cent of mixed plastics are recycled. About 5,000 items of marine plastic pollution per mile of beach have been found in the UK

3 The Five Green Laws

The green policy framework is defined by what is referred to as the Five Green Laws. These were introduced in 2015 (see ref 4 ) and have since been refined. They underpin policies that have been developed over a number of years and their importance has been recently (Nov 2018) reiterated in an article by Sir Ed Davey MP (see ref 12). These proposed bills are obviously premised on an LD government but they also clearly define the party’s national aims and objectives. The five Acts of Parliament needed to implement these Laws are:

  1. Nature Act
  2. Resource Efficiency and Zero Waste Britain Act
  3. Green Transport Act
  4. Zero Carbon Britain Act
  5. Green Buildings Act

The 2017 Manifesto makes some additions to the original proposals. These are prefixed by ‘manifesto’.

3.1 Nature Act
  • Publication of a 25-year plan for recovering nature, including how to reverse the decline of UK species and their habitats and ensure that bees and other insects are able to fulfil their important role as crop pollinators. Legal targets for biodiversity, clean air, clean water and access to green space.
  • Establishing new marine and coastal reserves.
  • The placing of the Natural Capital Committee on a statutory footing.
  • The introduction of a new Public Sector Sustainability Duty.
  • Implementation of the findings of the Independent Panel on Forestry by creating a new public body, free from political interference and securely funded, to build the estate’s public value.
3.2 Resource Efficiency and Zero Waste Britain Act
  • Tasking the Natural Capital Committee with identifying the key resources being used unsustainably and recommending legally binding targets for reducing their net consumption.
  • Using smart regulation and public procurement to support circular economy models, including promoting design that enhances repairability, reuse and recyclability, and requiring specified products to be sold with parts and labour guarantees for at least five years to ensure people benefit from products that are made to last.
  • Setting a sustainable water abstraction regime, with all unsustainable licences revoked.
  • Introducing measures like open tendering to help local authorities keep the cost of waste collection down.
  • The introduction of a National Waste Brokerage Service, based on the Scottish model, where businesses bid for collection of certain materials from a range of public service providers such as Local Authorities, the NHS and schools.
  • Increased penalties for waste crimes, moving from an average fine of £50,000 to £75,000 and from an average sentence of 12 to 18 months.
  • Introduction of a recycling target of 70% for waste in England.
  • Creating an Office of Resource Management, working across Defra, DCLG and BEIS to ensure that government actions support these aims for resource efficiency and waste minimisation without placing excessive burdens on individuals or businesses.
  • Manifesto: Introduce a 5p charge on disposable coffee cups.
3.3 Green Transport Act
  • Establish a full network of charging points for electric cars.
  • Reform planning law to ensure new developments are designed around walking, cycling and public transport.
  • Setting a statutory target of 2030 by which time all major, regularly used rail routes will need to be electrified.
  • Ensuring that every new bus and taxi is Ultra Low Emission from 2030 and banning high emission vehicles from the road after 2040.
  • The creation of Low Emission Zones with a national air quality plan including a legal requirement targeted at the most polluted towns and cities.
  • Giving local authorities the power to reduce speed limits outside schools to 10mph.
  • Ensuring that all new rail franchises include a stronger focus on customers.
  • Actively promote cycling and walking in order to improve health and air quality significantly.
  • Manifesto: A diesel scrappage scheme, and a ban on the sale of diesel cars and small vans in the UK by 2025.
3.4 Zero Carbon Britain Act
  • Introducing a new legally-binding target for Zero Carbon Britain by 2050, to be monitored and audited by the Climate Change Committee.
  • Implementing a 2030 power sector decarbonisation target of 50-100g per kWh and a ban on coal power generation (without Carbon Capture and Storage) by 2025.
  • Giving full borrowing powers to the Green Investment Bank, to boost further investment in low carbon technologies. (Note: Tories recently sold this off !)
  • Establishing an Office for Accelerated Low Carbon Innovation, to support the fast-tracking of green technologies including tidal power, renewable heat, ultra-low emission vehicles, energy storage and Carbon Capture and Storage.
3.5 Green Buildings Act
  • British Housing and Infrastructure Development Bank to support investment into low-carbon and sustainable infrastructure.

  • Introducing a Council Tax discount for significant improvements in energy efficiency in homes.

  • Setting ambitious targets for all social and private rented homes to reach Energy Performance Certificates Band C by 2027.

    • Manifesto: Ensure that at least four million homes are made highly energy efficient (Band C) by 2022, with priority given to fuel-poor households.
  • Bringing forward a new legal framework to require regulators to facilitate the development of deep geothermal heat, large-scale heat pumps, waste industrial heat and energy storage systems.

  • Introducing new energy efficiency and heat saving regulations to reduce energy use.

  • Manifesto: Restore the Zero Carbon Standard for new homes which was set by Liberal Democrats in government and since abandoned by the Conservatives, increasing the standard steadily and extending it to non-domestic buildings by 2022.

  • Treating upgrading the energy performance of housing stock as a priority, high-added-value national infrastructure investment, to be designated as capital expenditure.

  • Adopting a comprehensive strategy to tackle fuel poverty in the social housing and privately rented sectors with, as a first step, a commitment to bring all fuel-poor homes to Energy Performance Certificate Band C or above by 2027.

4 Related Policies

There are a number of manifesto commitments and policies that sit outside of the Five Green Laws but are clearly related to protecting the environment.

4.1 Climate Change

  • Support the Paris Agreement by ensuring the UK meets its own climate commitments and plays a leadership role in international efforts to combat climate change.
  • Oppose ‘fracking’ because of its adverse impact on climate change, the energy mix, and the local environment.
  • Maintain membership of Euratom, ensuring continued nuclear co-operation, research funding, and access to nuclear fuels.
4.2 Farming, Food and Agriculture
  • Continue our long campaign to reform agricultural subsidies – making sure British farming remains competitive and doesn’t lose out in the event of Britain leaving the EU, rebalancing away from direct subsidy and refocusing support towards the public goods that come from effective land management, including countryside protection, flood prevention, food production, and climate change mitigation. This would ensure that smaller farms are protected and move support away from large landowners, whilst delivering a more localised agricultural policy.
  • Introduce a National Food Strategy to promote the production and consumption of healthy, sustainable and affordable food.
  • Continue to improve standards of animal health and welfare in agriculture by updating farm animal welfare codes and promoting the responsible stewardship of antibiotic drugs.
  • Ensure that future trade deals require high safety, environmental and animal welfare standards for food imports, including clear and unambiguous country of origin labelling for meat and dairy products.
4.3 Energy
Continue to back new entrants to the energy market, aiming for at least 30% of the household market to be supplied by competitors to the ‘Big 6’ by 2022.
4.4 Transport

The following policies were passed at the Spring 2019 Conference:

  • Introduce a ban on the sale of new non-hybrid diesel and petrol cars and small vans within the next decade.
  • Replace government’s own current vehicle fleet with electric, hybrid or other ultra-low emission vehicles by 2022.
  • Pass a Clean Air Act, based on World Health Organisation guidelines, enforced by a new Air Quality Agency, enshrining the legal right to unpolluted air wherever people live.
  • Undertake air pollution testing more widely and frequently, with warning signs displayed in pollution hotspots and in sensitive areas such as near schools.
  • Reform Vehicle Excise Duty so that it is graduated to reflect levels of both NO2 and CO2 emissions in every year.
  • Introduce a ban on idling in vehicles near schools, hospitals, parks and care homes, with fines for those who ignore the ban.
  • Reverse the cuts to electric vehicle subsidies and extend them by exploring VAT reductions for electric vehicles.
  • Use new powers to standardise plug sockets for electric vehicles.
  • Invest in research into alternative technologies, such as hydrogen fuel cells, as well as into battery technology.
  • Provide the funding to retrofit or replace all diesel buses operating in urban areas within five years.
  • Introduce new planning legislation ensuring that all new developments and large-scale regeneration schemes include electric car charging facilities.
  • Invest significantly in schemes to speed up the strategic roll-out of rapid charging points. Work with local authorities to expand them to popular in-town locations such as public car parks and supermarkets.
  • Invest in residential on-street charging, using the existing lamp post infrastructure wherever possible so as not to clutter the pavement.
  • Provide greater and more ambitious support for all forms of public transport and for active travel initiatives involving walking and cycling.

5 Local Policies (South Hams)

Sections 1 to 4 have attempted to give the national policy background. This section puts this into the context of South Hams and what the District Council should do to further these policy ambitions.

In the following the words “encouraging” and “promoting” appear a lot. In general this means taking active steps to educate and to develop policies to incentivise.

5.1 Planning – Supplementary Development Policies

The Joint Local Plan (JLP) is in the process of being finalised and a new Council after 2 May will therefore have little or no chance to vary this (which is a problem with the legislative process that needs addressing). Any variations will need to be implemented as Supplementary Development Documents.

  • Establish housing insulation and energy efficiency targets for all new builds such that they achieve band C or above. (Exercising the right for an LPA to do so as per the NPPF §105b and the government’s consultation response – ref 16)
  • Follow the example of other Councils, and work with external organisations like Association for Environment Conscious Building (AECB) to develop local planning policies.
  • Develop policies that promote the use of Walking, Cycling and Public Transport in new developments.
  • The Council needs to provide leadership to ensure that the Environment Agency, Natural England, AONB, UNESCO Biosphere, and others work effectively together and with the Council and that there exist commonly understood policies such that all agencies conform to the Regulators Code (ref 15).
5.2 Circular Economy
  • Develop guidelines to ensure all Council procurement is governed by the principles of the Circular Economy. For instance, emissions disclosure should become core to all Council procurement and part of an open-tender policy.
  • Through an education programme, promote the principles and benefits to Town and Parish Councils, Chambers of Commerce, and directly to local businesses
  • Work with and support local organisations (like Transition Town and others)
  • Support and promote the development of low carbon skills.
  • Work to develop local performance measures of Resource Productivity (ref 13).
  • Provide incentives through business rates.
5.3 Road Traffic Emissions
  • Scheme to report cars/lorries/tractors emitting ‘smoke’.
  • Reducing food miles by encouraging and promoting the purchase of locally produced foods through businesses set up to do this, community and local shops and farmers’ markets.
  • Encouraging and promoting car-sharing schemes. These exist but they are not widely used. There is a need to incentivise and encourage community based electric car schemes (Haberton & Harbertonford CLT social housing application that finally passed includes such a scheme).
  • Remote or decentralised working is increasingly common but many businesses have yet to properly embrace the possibilities. There exists a need to encourage business to explore these.
5.4 Sustainable Farming
  • Work with national organisations, like the NFU, but more specifically with our local farmers to find ways to help them utilise their land with the least environmental impact and to help them base their business on local demand.
  • Tree Planting schemes to encourage the creation of areas of forest. This could include free locally sourced (ie not imported) whips, and education on the economics and management of woodland.
5.5 Energy use reduction
  • Fuel poverty arises for many reason but in a rural area it is often the dependence on oil-fired central heating. Provide incentives to move to modern night-storage, together with other measures.
  • Allow Council Tax discount for significant improvements in energy efficiency in homes.

6 References

  1. General Policy Papers vist

  2. Manifesto 2017 (see section 5) vist

  3. Green Liberal Democrats – Policies vist

  4. Five Green Laws – substantive motion 2015 vist

  5. Policy 143 – Demand Better – Section 5 – A Green Economy and a Green Society vist

  6. DCC Climate Change Review Report (2018) vist

  7. Kingston Liberal Democrats Manifesto – an example vist

  8. Green Liberal Democrats on Facebook vist

  9. Climate and the Low Carbon Economy vist

  10. Policy 109 – Green Growth Green Jobs vist

  11. Climate Change report commissioned by LDs (2017): Clean, Green and Carbon Free vist

  12. Sir Ed Davey MP – We need bold action on climate change (Nov 2018) vist

  13. Resource Productivity vist

  14. Lib Dems are best for the Environment (2017) vist

  15. Regulators Code vist

  16. UKGBC – Driving sustainability in new homes:a resource for local authorities (Jul 2018) vist