5 ways that your vote will affect the environment in this election

on June 5, 2017
Pollution photo by Alexandre Borsoi

Pollution photo by Alexandre Borsoi

As we approach a hugely significant General Election on Thursday Ophelie Maraval has been looking at how your vote is likely to affect the environment.

1. Brexit

Three months after article 50 triggered Brexit, is still unclear what Brexit means for the environment and Britain’s green targets.

In case the UK would no longer be obliged to honour their environmental agreements toward the European Union, they would still have to comply with the Climate Change Act. Britain’s own ‘Climate Change Act’ actually imposes even stricter requirements for cutting carbon emissions, increasing recycling and improving air quality.

Nonetheless the Green Party wants the introduction of an Environmental Protection Act to protect the natural world after Brexit. This act would protect and enhance biodiversity, promote sustainable food and farming and ensure animal protection.

On the other hand, UKIP promises to continue to make available to farmers the agricultural sector funds that would normally be paid to them via Brussels.

For Labour, the priority post-Brexit is to maintain access to the EU’s internal energy market and retain access to nuclear research programme Euratom.

In their manifesto the Conservative Party says the UK will form its own energy policy “based not on the way energy is generated but on the ends we desire”.

2. Fracking

Fracking is at the centre of the environment debate of the upcoming general election. Still at an early stage in the UK, drilling for shale gas is highly controversial due to the massive amounts of water it necessitates and the possible contamination of groundwater around the fracking sites.

The Liberal Democrats, Green and Labour parties all promise to ban the practice.

On the other side of the debate the Conservative manifesto supports fracking, while UKIP’s energy spokesman Roger Helmer said during a speech in London fracking was the ‘greatest new economic opportunity for UK in our lifetimes’.

3. Fox hunting

Last month PM Theresa May said she will allow Conservative MPs a free vote in Parliament on whether to bring back fox hunting and therefore compromise the future of the Hunting Act.

This was a controversial — and risky — statement as a poll revealed that half of all voters said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate in the general election who wants to make fox hunting legal again. Some Conservative candidates have already distanced themselves from the policy.

UKIP promises to hold a referendum on the fox hunting issue if people wanted it.

Both Labour and the Green Party are strongly opposed to reinstating fox hunting.

4. Clean air

According to a study led by the Royal College of Physicians, air pollution contributes to 40,000 deaths a year.

The Conservative government was ordered by a judge to produce a plan to tackle air pollution. In its new proposals the Conservative party recommends to leave the responsibility of each local authority to “develop innovative proposals” to improve air quality in their areas.

Green and the Labour Party are promising the introduction of a new Clean Air Act to legislate against diesel fumes by introducing targeted diesel scrappage scheme to take diesel vehicles off the road.

For the Liberal Democrats, the establishment of an Air Quality Plan is also essential to reduce air pollution, they promise to ban of sales of diesel cars by 2025 if they get elected.

5. Nuclear energy

via GIPHY

About one sixth of the UK’s electricity comes from nuclear power. The Nuclear Industry Association has warned that leaving the Euratom treaty without new agreements could have dramatic impact on Hinkley Point C and other stations; however the three leading parties have made little mention of the issue of nuclear power.

In their manifesto the Liberal Democrats said they would maintain membership of Euratom to secure nuclear cooperation and maintain access to nuclear fuels.

Similarly, Labour confirmed its will to prioritise maintaining access to the internal energy market during Brexit negotiations. They say preserving access to Euratom is important “to allow continued trade of fissile material, with access and collaboration over research vital to our nuclear industry”.

The Conservatives — who were pro-nuclear in 2015 and wanted to see a significant expansion in nuclear power provision — now makes little to no mention of nuclear power. Their manifesto only says:

“So, after we have left the European Union, we will form our energy policy based not on the way energy is generated but on the ends we desire.”

It can however be understood that UK will still rely heavily on nuclear power if the Conservatives are elected.

On the other side, the Green Party promises to scrap plans for new nuclear power stations, including Hinkley Point C, with an alternative strategy to “harness the dramatically falling costs of renewable energy”

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