Energy and environment play greater role in 2015 election fight

An independent analysis has shown the major political parties are taking energy and the environment seriously ahead of the 2015 General Election, seeing them as inextricably linked to future economic prosperity.

Ian Bailey, Professor of Environmental Politics at Plymouth University, has worked alongside colleagues from Cardiff University to provide an assessment of pledges on the environment, climate change and energy issues.

Over the past fortnight, they have combed through the manifestos drawn up by the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, UK Independence Party, the Green Party, Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru.

In a series of articles, published on academic website The Conversation, they have used previous research to analyse the feasibility and potential impact of each party’s pledges, with the aim of sparking academic and public debate in the run-up to the polls on May 7.

Professor Bailey said:

“Environmental issues inevitably struggle to gain headway against headline issues such as the economy and immigration, but they do represent crucial long-term challenges. The sense is that voters are concerned about issues like energy security and climate change, but the short-term nature of the electoral politics does not always reflect these longer-term concerns as well as it might. Certainly though most of the manifestos give the impression that the main parties want to be seen to be taking energy and environment seriously, but also they see them as linked strongly to economic prosperity through the idea of the green economy. As such, most of the parties stress the need for more renewable energy and less coal-based energy generation, and differences are more likely to be found in their stances on nuclear and shale gas extraction (fracking).”

Professor Bailey is a respected commentator on environmental policy issues, and has previously collaborated with Professor Hugh Compston from Cardiff to write a number of books on the subject.

They were contacted by the editors of The Conversation regarding the green aspects of the main parties’ manifestos, and have since scrutinised the evidence supporting the policies being adopted, commenting on their feasibility and acceptability, and examining some of the political dynamics of the likelihood that manifesto promises would shape, or at least influence, the energy and environmental policies of the next government.

Professor Bailey added:

“Some policies appear to be more symbolic than others, but most take their lead from international bodies like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and are generally feasible in technical terms. The bigger questions for the majority of parties are whether their policies will gain public acceptance – nuclear, fracking and wind turbines always provoke controversy, whilst extending the Right to Roam in the countryside will doubtless concerns some landowners. There are also questions over whether their policies are affordable in an era of austerity, and whether they’re likely to have an influence. This last element is particularly important for parties like the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP if they have a chance to form part of a future coalition. It promises to be an interesting election.”