Conservatives and Lib Dems unveil environmental agreement

The newly formed Conservative Party and Liberal Democrat coalition government unveiled its key environmental policies yesterday, pledging continued support for green energy and cancellation of any new UK airport runways.

Among the two parties’ negotiation agreement, published on the Liberal Democrat’s official web site, was a cancellation of controversial plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport and a refusal of any expansion of Gatwick and Stansted. The proposal takes a more hardened stance than the previous government on the increase in air travel in the UK.

Yet the two parties have assured support for many green policies championed by Labour. These include the establishment of a smart grid and the roll-out of smart meters and the continuation of the government’s proposals for public sector investment in CCS technology for four coal-fired power stations.

Their agreement also sets out to follow through on the creation of a green investment bank, which was an idea first proposed in former Chancellor Alistair Darling’s budget this year.

More novel proposals include new measures to promote a huge increase in energy from waste through anaerobic digestion.

The Conservative – Liberal Democrat agreement does show obvious friction between the parties on the issue of nuclear energy.

Liberal Democrats have long opposed any new nuclear construction. Conservatives, by contrast, are determined to allow the replacement of existing nuclear power stations provided they are subject to the normal planning process for major projects under a new national planning statement and receive no public subsidy.

As part of the coalition deal, the Liberal Democrats will continue their opposition to nuclear power but have agreed to abstain from voting on any national planning statement brought for ratification by Parliament.

Other points highlighted in their joint environmental policy include:

  • The provision of home energy improvement paid for by the savings from lower energy bills.

  • Retention of energy performance certificates while scrapping HIPs.

  • Measures to encourage marine energy.

  • The establishment of a high-speed rail network.

  • The replacement of the Air Passenger Duty with a per flight duty.

  • The provision of a floor price for carbon, as well as efforts to persuade the EU to move towards full auctioning of ETS permits.

  • Measures to make the import or possession of illegal timber a criminal offence.

  • Measures to promote green spaces and wildlife corridors in order to halt the loss of habitats and restore biodiversity.

  • Mandating a national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.