The general election is a crucial point in the UK’s transition to net zero. When the UK wrote it into law, it was a step ahead of all other major economies at the time. However, it feels as though not a huge amount of progress has been made since then. Rishi Sunak rolled back on certain policies and supported oil and gas expansion despite advice from the Climate Change Committee. Now that Labour are in Government, the party will need to address their long-term strategy for net zero.

Here’s a recap of the pledges prior to the 2024 general election:

ConservativesLabourLiberal DemocratsGreen PartyReform UK
Continued integration of ISSB standards and TCFD mandate expansion.Mandating UK-regulated financial institutions and FTSE 100 firms to develop and implement credible transition plans.  Require all large, listed firms to set net-zero goals and regularly report on progress and publish nature-positive transition plans.Any company holding a UK banking licence will be required to present an investment strategy outlining a clear pathway to divestment of its current fossil fuel assets as soon as possible.No mention.
Invest a further £1.1bn through the Green Industries Growth Accelerator, Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) by 2027.£1.5bn to new gigafactories and will scrap short funding cycles for key R&D institutions in favour of ten-year budgets.Create a new industrial strategy aligned with climate ambitions and increasing funding and aligning emissions trading schemes.Pledges to increase investment into research and development by over £30bn in the lifetime of the five-year parliament.No specific industrial or innovation strategies or spending.
Reverse London ULEZ, clamp down on low-traffic neighbourhoods, £2 fare cap on bus rides in England, reform private-public partnerships in rail.Will develop a long-term strategy for transport, with a focus on the aviation industry.Reinstate 2030 ban on new ICE cars and vans.An end to sales of new petrol and diesel fuelled vehicles by 2027 and investment an additional £19bn over five years to improve public transport.Scrap the ban on ICE cars and bans plus the ZEV mandate, integrate public transport infrastructure planning, proceed with all public and active transport investments underway.
Will hold a vote on he the next phase of the UK’s transition to net-zero by 2050, get more information on the economics of the transition from the Climate Change Committee.Reiterated its commitment to maintain the UK’s 2050 net-zero target.Move UK’s net-zero target forward to 2045 ‘at the latest’.Transition to a zero-carbon society as soon as possible, and more than a decade ahead of 2050.Scrap the UK’s 2050 net-zero target, ramp up pressure on China and other big emitters first.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has outlined its five primary policies under the Labour Government, aimed at safeguarding the UK’s natural landscapes, food systems and communities from the harmful impact of climate change.

Newly appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Steve Reed OBE, addressed concerns regarding the record levels of sewage, the deteriorating state of our natural habitats, and the confidence of farmers being at an all-time low. Plans to overcome and the damage that also already been done will take years. However, Defra’s five priorities are focused on the following key areas:

  1. Restoring the cleanliness of British rivers, lakes and seas
  2. Establishing a roadmap towards a zero-waste economy
  3. Supporting farmers to boost Britain’s food security
  4. Restoring the UK’s natural habitats
  5. Protecting communities from flooding

Challenges on the horizon

There is work to do for the new Labour Government to tackle some of the key challenges facing UK’s journey towards net zero and the preservation of its environment, natural habitats, the security of food, and wildlife. Here’s a rundown of the key issues they face:

  • Under the Environment Act 2021, the UK is legally required to stop the decline in species abundance and protect 30% of its sea and land for nature by 2030 – currently, only 7% of land in England is safeguarded for nature protection, over a third of that in adequate condition, and similar progress for marine areas at a minimal
  • The UK ranks globally among the lowest 10% of countries in terms of biodiversity intactness
  • The UK’s climate adaptation strategies, including measures to protect communities from extreme weather events like floods and heatwaves, have been deemed insufficient twice by the High Court and are presently under judicial review
  • Extreme weather, particularly flooding, currently impacts eight out of ten farms in the UK and farmers are calling on the Government for additional support to stay financially viable
  • The UK’s food security is further threatened by inadequate international adaptation efforts – the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) last year revealed that approximately £8bn worth of food imports to the UK are currently vulnerable to climate-related risks

Corporate contributions

In related developments post-election, the UK Corporate Leaders Group (CLG UK) has released an extensive policy briefing, outlining how the Labour Government can help businesses accelerate climate action. This briefing aims to guide the new Government on achieving net-zero emissions and encourage economic growth, stressing the need for appropriate policies and bold political leadership.

Recommendations by the CLG UK, include:

  • Maximising offshore wind energy and producing carbon capture, green hydrogen, and battery storage
  • Ending new oil and gas projects
  • Investment in modernising the electricity grid
  • Restructuring energy pricing to favour low-carbon options
  • Promoting clean, flexible energy technologies in industrial areas
  • Implementing sustainable water management practices and fund advanced treatment research
  • Developing an agricultural decarbonisation pathway and Land Use Framework
  • Implement standardised measurements for environmental impacts on farms
  • Provide green financing options for farmers and innovative technologies
  • Integrating climate and nature policies to support biodiversity and unified solutions

The Labour Government’s environmental and climate policies set by Defra mark the beginning of an extensive effort to address the UK’s important environmental issues. With a clear roadmap and the collaboration of businesses and communities, the Government aims to bring about significant and lasting change in the years to come.

If you have any queries regarding the above, please get in contact with Richard Singleton, or contact us via the form below:

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