Environment

The environment has taken something of a backseat since the financial crisis and the expenses scandal began dominating political debate in Britain. But there are still a wide variety of competing policies out there.

Labour and the Conservatives both believe the use of nuclear power can complement the use of renewable energy. The Liberal Democrats disagree, saying more nuclear power will use up subsidies, centralise energy production and hinder the development of Britain’s renewable resources.

The Lib Dems will also require energy companies to simplify the various different tariffs on offer and require them to charge families less for a basic amount of energy use in an effort to encourage responsible use. Families on more modest incomes will be offered a social tariff. Smart meters will be rolled out across the UK to all households by 2015 and all homes insulated to a ‘decent’ standard by 2020. All new homes will be made energy efficient, while ‘green loans’ will aim to encourage people to invest in further home efficiency measures. The national grid will be reconstructed into a smart decentralised grid and smart meters introduced in homes.

The Tories also want to introduce smart grids and smart meters which can match demand with supply, while a ‘decentralised energy revolution’ will introduce a system of feed-in tariffs to encourage the micro-generation of electricity.

The Tories are particularly concerned with reducing waste. A ‘responsibility deal’ on waste will be introduced encouraging – but not forcing – producers to cut back on the production of waste and improve its disposal. Councils will be encouraged to incentives families who recycle and a floor put under landfill tax. Families will be given the right to £6,500 worth of home insulation improvements. Central government will also have to make cuts – of ten per cent within the first year of a Tory government, thereby saving up to £300 million, according to the party’s figures.

Labour has set a target to make all new homes zero-carbon from 2016. The party says its policies will see five million households helped with insulation over the next three years. Old high-energy light bulbs will be phased out by 2011, the party says, with 100 million low energy light bulbs to be given out for free. Efforts to make sure single-use carrier bags go the way of the dodo are also being discussed with industry. The party forecasts the equivalent of 9.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year being cut in reductions to greenhouse gases by 2020. A new £100 billion blueprint for renewable energy will also be implemented.