The Conservative manifesto accuses Labour of “shutting down” the North Sea, risking 200,000 jobs. Image: Eric Hossinger.

Key UK political parties have published their manifestos for the 4 July General Election. The Labour Party’s manifesto puts green policies “at the heart” of its plans for growth and prosperity. To some degree, all of the parties target the climate in their pledges to the UK public.

In the Conservative manifesto, Rishi Sunak aims to deliver on climate without what he has called “unaffordable eco-zealotry”.  While it pledges to ring-fence its commitment to International Climate Finance, the Conservative Party’s “pragmatic and proportionate” approach to the environment does not establish climate-specific spending commitments.

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto places climate change third on its list of priorities, promising to “put tackling climate change at the heart of a new industrial strategy.” The manifesto also neglects to specify climate spending goals, but it follows the advice of the Conservatives’ own National Infrastructure Committee (NIC) to provide 100% funding to low-income households for heat pump installation.

The Labour Party’s manifesto puts green policies “at the heart” of its plans for growth and prosperity, as well as climate. Its biggest spending budget is £23.7bn for green measures during the next parliament, with the key aims of creating 650,000 jobs by 2030, driving industrial renewal, lowering bills and creating secure supplies of clean energy.

Co-leader of the Green party Carla Denyer has called it a “business-as-usual manifesto” that leaves a “glaring hole” in Labour’s budget. In its own manifesto, the Green Party estimates that an average £40 billion investment yearly over the course of the parliament will achieve a “fairer, greener” Britain.

Investing in the industry

In the run-up to the election, renewable energy companies and trade associations have called for the next government to incentivise investment in the industry to enable the UK’s transition to renewable energy sources.

Energy Network Association calls for a stable policy and regulatory environment for long-term investment and supply chain capacity, highlighting the delays to new transmission infrastructure “bogged down in planning”.

The Conservative manifesto promises to speed up major infrastructure projects, including new energy schemes. While it will make environmental impact of less consideration in large-scale industrial projects, it does promise to cut grid waiting times.

Labour’s climate policy, manifesto, and platform focus on Great British Energy, an investment mechanism for the green sector. While initially billed as a publicly owned clean energy company, it will not generate its own energy supply.

The Green Party’s pledge to nationalise the “Big 5” energy companies is the closest any party comes to a publicly-owned energy system.

Targeting the green skills shortage

While the industry has emphasised the economic opportunity of the transition to renewable energy and its potential to open up the job market, employment remains a barrier to both the Conservatives and Labour in accelerating the change.

GB Energy will be headquartered in Scotland, where North Sea oil and gas licenses are particularly contentious, given the jobs that the industry provides. Keir Starmer has said that GB Energy will provide jobs. Indeed, the Labour manifesto sets out ambitions to create 650,000 jobs by 2030.

The only political party to commit to no new oil and gas licenses is the Green Party, which also pledges to cease fossil fuel extraction completely.

Ensuring a just transition to a zero-carbon economy features heavily in the Green manifesto, which promises to prepare workers for the transition and the new roles they might take on, investing in skills and training (reaching £4 billion per year) to ensure no one is “stranded without jobs”.

Labour has pledged to reward clean energy developers with a British Jobs Bonus, allocating up to £500 million per year from 2026. It will incentivise firms who offer good jobs, terms and conditions and build their manufacturing supply chains in the UK’s industrial heartlands, coastal areas and energy communities.

The Liberal Democrats’ 2024 manifesto highlights the importance of equipping the next generation with green skills that will ensure employment within the renewables industry. The party pledges to invest at an educational level.

For the Tories, “high-skilled and well-paid” jobs in the oil and gas industry must be protected. The Conservative manifesto accuses Labour of “shutting down” the North Sea, risking 200,000 jobs.

Increasing renewable energy capacity

Liberal Democrats promise to remove the barriers to new solar and wind projects and to generate 80% of Britain’s power from renewables by 2030. By that same year, the Labour manifesto pledges the party will work with the private sector to double onshore wind, triple solar power and quadruple offshore wind.

Elected Green MPs would push for wind generation to provide around 70% of the UK’s electricity by 2030. The manifesto outlines targets to achieve 80GW of offshore wind, 53GW of onshore wind, and 100GW of solar by 2035.

Figured in the same terms as Labour’s goals, that ambition would see roughly five times more offshore wind, tripled onshore wind and six times more solar. The Tories have pledged to triple offshore wind generation.

For the Conservative Party, shoring up supply chains and establishing energy security cannot be done without oil and gas; new gas power stations are promised during their next parliament. It will “maintain the leadership on climate change we achieved at COP26 and our efforts to tackle global warming and biodiversity loss”.

However, the manifesto states: “Conservatives know that if we are forced to choose between clean energy and keeping citizens safe and warm, we will choose to keep the lights on.”

Net zero or not

The Conservative manifesto maintains the party’s commitment to achieving net zero by 2050. This has been Britain’s long-term goal and is echoed in the Labour manifesto. However, the Liberal Democrats have pledged to achieve this goal by 2040, and the Green Party has set its ambitions on net zero by 2035.

Each opposition party has identified policy changes that would deliver the green transition; the Tories pledge to achieve net zero without new green levies or charges.

It is worth noting that Reform UK is the only political hopeful that does not aim for net zero targets of any kind. It has called net zero “the wrong bit, at the wrong price, in the wrong timeframe”. It would scrap net zero ambitions completely and “maximise Britain’s vast energy treasure trove of oil and gas”.

Relative optimism in the industry suggests that this political shake-up represents a new opportunity for growth. Co-chair of the Solar Taskforce, Chris Hewett, recently said that the election is a chance to “widen some of the roads, increase some of the speed limits” in the UK solar roadmap.

See the original version of this article on Current.