Monday, 10 May 2010

Doubt hangs over UK government green policy

In fact it’s not just green policy, given the indecisive result in the General Election last week.  The Conservatives won most seats, but not a majority, so are currently in discussion with the Liberal Democrats over a likely coalition. 

Whilst we wait to see who rules Britain, it’s worth taking a look at how the environment has featured, since it will impact ICT demand.

Policies.  Green issues certainly did get more coverage this time round than ever before.  All parties had specific green policies and produced manifestos with clear commitments.  Unfortunately there was a tendency for the issues to be separated out from the mainstream policy discussions and rather treated as an issue for minority interest.  Also, the fact that the policies were pretty anodyne meant that they didn’t get discussed much in the media.  Nor did they generate much discussion in the televised leadership debates, where the party leaders seemed to quickly agree with each other and move on.  It seemed like a topic they didn’t really want to engage with.

Candidates.  What differences there are between the parties is more down to the individuals.  This was highlighted by UK NGO Friends of the Earth.  During the election campaign, supporters contacted their candidates to get them to commit to the environmental charity's four climate pledges.  Support was expressed by 285 Green Party candidates (out of around 300), 156 Liberal Democrats, 85 Labour, but just two Conservatives.

Friends of the Earth's Executive Director also sent the party leaders a letter asking them to commit to real action to tackle climate change. Towards the end of April the NGO reported that only Nick Clegg (Lib Dem) had replied.

Elected MPs.  The most significant win was for Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Green Party, who won the party’s first seat in Parliament.  However, the Greens failed in the other two constituencies they were particularly targeting.  The party secured around 1.5% of the overall votes.

Other prominent winners included multi-millionaire Zac Goldsmith, former editor of the Ecologist magazine, who became the Conservative MP for Richmond.  He has put it on record that he will fight for green policies and will stand down if election pledges are broken. Labours energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband held on to his seat.  He’s been tipped as a possible future leader of the Labour party (but then so has his brother, David, Foreign Secretary, who seems a more likely candidate).

The new government. As discussions continue (at the time of writing) about who will get to live in Downing Street, environmental and climate change policy seems to have become one of the key discussion points between the Tories and Lib Dem.  It’s certainly one area where the Conservatives seem prepared to adapt their views in order to secure some time in government. 

So a hung parliament may actually turn out to be a good thing, at least for the environment, although there are some significant sticking points before a coalition is agreed.  For instance, the Liberal Democrats are the only party opposed to building new nuclear reactors.  The Liberal Democrats want a one-year green stimulus plan, whilst the Conservatives have suggested cutting back on the current renewable energy subsidies.   One thing is for sure, the third runway at Heathrow is doomed – neither the Tories or Lib Dems supported the proposal.


Postscript:  Since I started writing this, Gordon Brown (Labour leader) has announced his resignation, seemingly to open the door for in-depth discussions between the Lib Dems and Labour about forming a government.  It would be a greener solution, but its not over yet …

© The Green IT Review

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