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Election 2024: What do the main parties say about trees?

The Tree Council

July 1, 2024

The UK General Election is fast approaching. With the July 4 polling day just around the corner, Tree Talk takes a deep dive into the main party manifestos to see what they say about trees specifically, alongside the broader challenges of enhancing our natural environment and mitigating the threat of climate change. We classify a main party as a party that operates across the UK, with a minimum of five sitting MPs when the election was called.

We’ll take them in alphabetical order, but first…

The topline on trees

The good news is that all the manifestos mention trees!

The Liberal Democrats are the only party to present a specific tree establishment figure in their 2024 manifesto – promising “to plant at least 60 million trees a year”, as well as “restore woodland habitats”. Labour is less specific on the number of trees it wants in the ground, but says it will “establish three new National Forests in England whilst planting millions of trees and creating new woodlands”. The Conservative party promises to “stick to our ambitious plan to plant more trees” through continuing the Nature for Climate fund, of which the majority went to support UK tree establishment.

Conservatives

The Conservative manifesto for 2024 opens with a headline list of “bold actions”. Under its commitment to “support working people and secure a stronger economy”, the party says it will “cut the cost of net zero for consumers” by promising “no new green levies or charges” and “accelerating the roll out of renewables”.

Inside, the document has a full section on “our plan for an affordable and pragmatic transition to net zero”, including trebling offshore wind, building carbon capture and storage clusters, and investing in the Green Industries Growth Accelerator.

The Conservatives promise to retain their “cast-iron commitment” to the greenbelt, designate an eleventh National Park and “deliver our commitments on National Trails”.

The party says it will build new gas power stations and have annual licencing rounds for North Sea oil and gas production. It will retain the windfall tax on oil and gas companies until 2028-29.

As well as promising to “deliver our tree planting and peatland commitments” through continuing the Nature for Climate fund, the Conservatives say they will “cut red tape that holds back the planting of trees in the planning system”, launch a design competition for “urban greening” and “set an ambitious commitment for everyone to have access to nature within 15 minutes’ walk of where they live”.

Read the full 2024 Conservative Party manifesto here: www.manifesto.conservatives.com/

Labour

The Labour Party goes into the 2024 election with five headline “missions”, of which one is “make Britain a clean energy superpower”. The manifesto refers specifically to the “climate and nature crisis” as “the greatest long term global challenge that we face”, to explain why “clean energy by 2030 is Labour’s second mission”.

They plan to achieve this by doubling onshore wind, tripling solar power and quadrupling offshore wind, as well as investing in carbon capture and storage, hydrogen and marine energy – all backed by a new Energy Independence Act. Labour will not issue new gas, oil or coal licences because “they will not take a penny off bills”. They will also “close the loopholes” on the windfall tax introduced in the previous Parliament.

Labour will develop a publicly owned company – Great British Energy – with £8.3b capitalisation to “deliver power back to the British people”, and its Warm Homes Plan will offer grants and low interest loans for insulation and solar panels. It aims to make the UK the “green finance capital of the world”.

It will create nine new “National River Walks”, establish three new National Forests in England, plant “millions of trees”, create new woodlands, and expand wetlands and peat bogs.

Internationally, Labour says it will “restore the strong global leadership needed to tackle the climate crisis” through the establishment of a Clean Power Alliance of countries at the “cutting edge of climate action”.

Read the full 2024 Labour Party manifesto here: www.labour.org.uk/change/

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats’ 2024 manifesto refers to climate change as “an existential threat” and promises five “fair deal” priorities, of which one is “a fair deal on the environment”. It says the “UK is facing a nature crisis” and promises to “double nature by 2050”, by doubling the size of the Protected Area Network, and doubling the most important wildlife habitats, as well as doubling species abundance and woodland cover.

The manifesto refers specifically to “nature based solutions”, and the Liberal Democrats say they will “plant at least 60 million trees a year”, pass a Clean Air Act, pass a new Environmental Rights Act “guaranteeing access to environmental justice”, protect at least 30% of land and sea areas by 2030, ensure new developments result in “significant net gain” for biodiversity, and “empower” Local Nature Recovery Strategies to identify a new “Wild Belt” for “nature’s recovery”.

The party promises to restore peatlands as a carbon store, protect and enhance temperate rainforests, create and restore saltmarsh, mudflat and seagrass meadows, create a “real network” of marine protected areas, and work internationally to “fight deforestation”.

The Liberal Democrats also say they will introduce a “new super tax on private jet flights”, remove VAT exemptions for private, first class and business class flights, reform flight taxation to focus on those who fly the most, and ban short domestic flights “where a direct rail option taking less than 2.5 hours is available for the same journey”.

Read the full 2024 Liberal Democrat manifesto here: www.libdems.org.uk/manifesto

There are other parties fielding candidates across the UK, including the Green Party (www.greenparty.org.uk/about/our-manifesto/) and Reform (www.reformparty.uk/policies). The SNP is fielding candidates across Scotland, Plaid Cymru across Wales and there are a number of parties standing in Northern Ireland. To see the full list of candidates and parties standing in your constituency, please visit www.bbc.co.uk/news/election/2024/uk/results.

This article was first published in Tree Talk, The Tree Council’s substack channel. To receive new posts directly to your inbox, subscribe at http://treetalk.substack.com 

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