Green Party: "Friends of the Earth have got this wrong."
The Labour party has come out top in Friends of the Earth’s environmental assessment of the main UK-wide party manifestos – ahead of the Greens.
The assessment, published on Saturday, looks at the manifestos of the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats and Green parties. These were scored against Friends of the Earth’s election asks – which covered ten areas including, climate targets, energy, transport, food and nature, with the manifestos marked out of 45.
The final assessment saw Labour, Lib Dems and Greens all marked highly, but with the Labour Party given a slightly higher score overall, after four Labour shadow cabinet members strengthened the party’s policy detail in a number of key areas, in a letter to Friends of the Earth.
However, the Greens are understood to be ‘fuming’ at FoE for allowing commitments that weren’t in the manifesto – which enables Labour to pull ahead of them.
Friends of the Earth sent all the parties an initial score following publication of their manifestos – with HQs then allowed further time to provide additional pledges, clarifications or restatements of existing policies, which might have been left out of manifestos but form part of the party’s policies for government.
FoE say the Greens did not respond with enough additional detail in time for publication, on issues including food waste targets and stopping public financing of overseas oil/gas projects.
A letter sent exclusively to Friends of the Earth from four Labour Shadow Secretaries of State (and published with the scoring) went further than the manifesto in key areas.
It included a much stronger preference for a ‘frequent flyer levy’ to manage demand for aviation, promised to review the Aviation National Policy Statement against much tougher carbon targets – and said expansion at Heathrow airport would be cancelled if it wasn’t consistent with these targets.
The detailed letter also pledged that a Labour government would take funds directly from the road building programme for public transport projects.
The Lib Dems set out addition pledges to its manifesto in a letter to Friends of the Earth recommitting to the policies in its previously published Climate Emergency policy document.
A letter from Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley to Friends of the Earth appeared to strengthen and clarify the party’s policy on a Clean Air Act.
Dave Timms, Friends of the Earth’s head of political affairs, said:
“Labour’s manifesto contains strong, funded policies on home energy efficiency and renewables. This was boosted by significant additional pledges during the campaign on plans for tree planting, food policy, public transport and cycling – as well as a commitment to strong environmental law and enforcement.
“The Lib Dems and Greens both scored similarly and had a suite of policies which were consistently judged to meet, and sometimes exceed, Friends of the Earth’s policy demands. Both had especially strong policies on home energy efficiency and renewables, but scored slightly lower than Labour overall.”
But a Green Party spokesperson told Left Foot Forward:
“We think Friends of the Earth have got this wrong. Going through a similar exercise, Greenpeace scored the Green Party with the highest score. Friends of the Earth themselves actually also score the Green Party manifesto the highest overall, but Labour have simply made additional promises that were not included in their manifesto. We would question Labour’s commitment to any promise they have made which does not appear in their manifesto.
“Friends of the Earth should also analyse the economic policies of the different parties. For as long as Labour and any other party remain locked into growth-based policies, they simply can’t make the ambitious systems-wide changes that we need.
“Our manifesto clearly sets out the most ambitious Green New Deal of any political party and we are also the only party to commit to reaching net-zero carbon by 2030. It is the Green Party that has consistently led the way on the environment and pushing climate change to the top of the agenda. We encourage voters to read our manifesto to see why both Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have scored it highest.”
Green members also reacted angrily on Twitter:
Another Green Party activist added: “It looks partisan and uninformed to rank first a party that supports airport expansion, coal mines, and doesn’t have a green track record in local, regional and national level…And to give them a chance to edit their manifesto last minute.”
Green Party London Assembly candidate Benali Hamdache said: “To be frank I think it’s pretty shoddy of @friends_earth to include non manifesto commitments in the rankings. Time and again we’ve seen non-manifesto commitments thrown aside. Anyone remember Sadiq Khan promising to plant many many trees in London?”
But Labour figures were jubilant, and hope it could further squeeze the Green Party’s vote in these crucial next few days. The Greens were at 6% in August but now sit at around 3% in the polls.
FoE’s David Timms also hit out at the Conservative Party on climate policy:
“Despite the Conservative Party manifesto offering decent policies on plastics and agricultural subsidies and restatement of the moratorium on fracking, in sector after sector its commitments were invariably weaker than the other parties, entirely absent or just plain bad.
“Their manifesto consistently failed to step up to address the climate and nature emergencies, which are hurting communities right now and will deliver catastrophe in the future. We were concerned that they failed to restate commitments to some existing positive government policies.”
Earlier this week Friends of the Earth published a list of over 1000 general election candidates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who have taken a Friends of the Earth pledge to make the climate crisis a deal-breaker in how they would vote in parliament if elected.
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.
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