25 Oct 2019

Party Conference season has now come and gone. Brexit politics may have dominated the news coverage, but it was the green agenda that proved to be a recurring and dominant theme across all parties’ domestic policy priorities.  

It comes as no surprise that the Liberal Democrats, SNP and the Green Party support stronger action on climate changeNotably, the Liberal Democrats overwhelmingly voted for a motion to reduce the net zero target from 2050 to 2045.  

Yet it was the Labour party that approved the radical policy of bringing forward the net zero target from 2050 to 2030. This controversial policy could form part of a future Labour manifesto should Labour leadership decide to incorporate it. It received widespread backing from the Unions and Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, amidst pressure from Labour activists.  

Perhaps the most surprising reaction was from the GMB Union, with the GMB General Secretary criticising the target as being “utterly unachievable”, lacking credibility and threatening jobs, a sentiment supported by Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom at Conservative Conference 

Labour has now been challenged to draw up a credible plan to achieve this target. So what areas of policy would Labour focus their attention on and what would the Conservative party do differently?  

At Labour conference, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell also announced that he would make reforms necessary “to ensure the finance sector isn’t pushing the other way by investing in carbon-intensive sectors Labour intend to raise billions through green bonds and support a Europe-wide green new deal to bring forward the 2050 target. Furthermore, they want to create a Sustainable Investment Board, develop a network of regional development banks and create a £250 billion National Transformation Fund 

Meanwhile, at the Conservative Conference, Green Finance Minister Kwasi Kwarteng stressed that the 2050 net zero target “was one of the most defined strategic goals the Government had set out”. However, he did acknowledge that the Government must be more ambitious, calling on the private and public sectors to work together to couple clean growth with economic growth.  

The publication of the Green Finance Strategy earlier this year set out the Government’s plan for the finance sector to reach its 2050 targetThe strategy outlined private sector disclosure requirements, defined regulator responsibilities on climate-related financial issues, established a new clean growth venture capital growth fund, and launched several cross-Government workstreams. John McDonnell may have criticised the strategy for being “totally ineffectual and toothless”, yet it received widespread support from business. Furthermore, Government point to the success of the strategy as elements of the plan are well underway, such as the establishment of the Green Finance Institute.   

With a General Election looming, both parties are under pressure from voters to demonstrate that they are serious about climate change and will look to the private sector to deliver on their manifesto pledges. 

85% of UK adults are concerned with climate change, with the majority (52%) of adults stating they are very concerned. Of this latter group, the issue divides party lines, with three in five Labour and Lib Dem supporters very concerned about the issue, compared to two in five Conservative voters1. With COP26 approaching, there will only be increased scrutiny and focus on the role of private business. Firms should be prepared to face more than just Brexit challenges in the coming years.

If you would like more information about the Green Agenda and how this affects your organisation, please contact Tanisha Aggarwal, Senior Consultant, Advocacy.

1 https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/concern-about-climate-change-reaches-record-levels-half-now-very-concerned