General election 2024: How do Labour's environment and climate policies stack up?

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Their full manifestos might not yet be out, but the UK’s major parties have plenty of green policies in the pipeline.

The current government’s biggest rivals are gearing up for a fight, and say they have plans to sort out many of the country’s environmental woes - which they claim have been left for them by the Tories.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last week called the UK’s general election - which will be held on 4 July this year. Since then parties have raced into campaign mode, announcing a flurry of prospective policies to attract potential voters. These range from the Conservative Party’s mooted £2.4 billion tax break for pensioners and plans to reintroduce national service, to Labour’s plans to create an extra 40,000 evening and weekend NHS appointment slots to help clear the treatment backlog.

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But like the rest of the world, the UK needs ambitious policymaking and action on the nature and climate crises this election - and beyond. We’re fresh off the back of the hottest year on record, with scientists warning we need to slash greenhouse gas emissions, especially those from burning fossil fuels, as a matter of urgency.

There have been concerns about what appears to be the current Conservative-led government softening on its climate and emissions policies in recent months - even while maintaining it would stick to its net zero by 2050 pledge. Sunak announced in September that a ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles - originally set for 2030 - would be pushed back five years, shortly after announcing the government would grant at least a hundred new oil and gas exploration licences in the North Sea.

Major parties, from the Conservatives, to Labour, to the Liberal Democrats, are all proposing different approaches to solving the UK's environmental woes (NationalWorld/Adobe Stock)Major parties, from the Conservatives, to Labour, to the Liberal Democrats, are all proposing different approaches to solving the UK's environmental woes (NationalWorld/Adobe Stock)
Major parties, from the Conservatives, to Labour, to the Liberal Democrats, are all proposing different approaches to solving the UK's environmental woes (NationalWorld/Adobe Stock) | NationalWorld/Adobe Stock

Green policies seemed to be falling into the firing line across both major parties for a time, after a narrow by-election loss by Labour was attributed to a controversial expansion of London’s ULEZ - or Ultra Low Emission Zone - which, similar to other clean air zone policies across the UK’s urban centres, was targeted at improving air quality for the sake of human health.

At the same time, British waterways are in the grips of a sewage pollution crisis, with sewage spills into England’s rivers and seas more than doubling in 2023. Meanwhile, the 2023 State of Nature report warned that one in six species in Great Britain was at risk of disappearing.

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But what do the key political players plan to do about it if you vote for them? Most are still yet to release their full manifestos, but there’s still a reasonable amount of information available on their proposed environmental and climate policies. Here’s what we know so far about Labour, the Conservatives’ current opposition and biggest rival coming into the election period:

At a glance

At a glance, net zero certainly appears higher up on Labour’s priority list that the Tories’. Included in its ‘10 big policies to get Britain’s future back’ are establishing a new, publicly-owned energy company - which will invest in homegrown clean power, paid for via a windfall tax on oil and gas giants; stopping water firm bosses’ bonuses when their companies pollute the environment; and bringing train operators under public control - to improve Britain’s railways as public transportation.

Pundits questioned Sir Keir Starmer’s climate leadership back in February when he revealed details of Labour’s Green Prosperity Plan, which saw the party slash its initial £28 billion-a-year climate investment pledge by almost 80%, blaming the Conservatives for a “very broken” economy. Starmer also confirmed he would not overturn any new oil and gas licences granted.

The Labour Party is led by Sir Keir Starmer (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)The Labour Party is led by Sir Keir Starmer (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
The Labour Party is led by Sir Keir Starmer (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire) | Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Emissions, net zero, and a green transition

Speaking at a launch event two weeks ago, Labour’s shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband acknowledged this was “the most consequential energy and climate election in our history” - and maintained net zero and a green transition were still a priority for the party.

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“Our mission is simple: to make Britain energy independent with the biggest investment in homegrown clean energy in British history, as part of our plan for clean power by 2030. Because clean energy we control at home is cheaper than fossil fuels, and more secure because dictators can’t control it,” he said. “Our first step is to set up Great British Energy, a publicly-owned clean energy company, by and for our citizens. It will be funded by asking the big oil and gas companies to pay their fair share through a proper windfall tax so we can invest in the future of Britain.”

Labour is planning to make Britain a “green energy superpower” by decarbonising electricity production by 2030. This would involve fast-tracking floating offshore wind projects, more than doubling Britain’s onshore wind capacity and tripling its solar power capacity, double the current government’s green hydrogen target, and get new nuclear projects at Hinkley and Sizewell “over the line”.


The party has historically championed the introduction of a new Clean Air Act based on World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines were it to get into power, but we could not find any mention of it among recent policy proposals put forward since the election was announced. NationalWorld has gone to Labour for comment on this.

Last October, Sir Keir told the BBC that Sir Keir Starmer he was searching for a better solution to air pollution in the South East - and refused to back Greater London's controversial ULEZ expansion.

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General election 2024

NationalWorld’s network of reporters across the UK are bringing you the most comprehensive coverage of the 2024 general election. 

Keep up to date with the latest news on our live blog and find all our election stories and explainers here.

Read our own manifesto for the 2024 general election and email [email protected] to let us know the issues which matter most to you.

You’ll need to register to vote on 4 July, there’s more information about that here.


On water, Labour says its plans to rectify the sewage scandal include putting failing water companies under special measures so that water bosses who continued to oversee law-breaking could face criminal charges. It would also give water regulator Ofwat the power to block any bonuses until water bosses had “cleaned up their filth” - under its proposed rules, Ofwat could have blocked six out of nine water bosses’ bonuses last year.

Labour would end self-monitoring of spills, and force all companies to monitor every single water outlet under independent supervision, “so companies can no longer cover up illegal sewage dumping”. It would introduce “severe and automatic” fines, so that water companies could not afford to ignore sewage discharges.


In terms of nature, Labour says it would review the UK’s Environment Improvement Plan to ensure it was fit for purpose, and would give communities got a bigger voice in safeguarding nature in their area.

On Friday (7 June), the party pledged to plant three new national forests, stop use of bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides, and help local groups buy land to create green space near them. The promises were among a raft of proposals in Labour’s new “countryside protection plan”, which the party says will protect nature, increase access to landscapes and end declines in British wildlife.

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Under the new plan, which has so far received positive feedback from a number of different environmental groups and conservation charities, communities will be given the right to buy that allows them to buy and restore derelict land into parks and green spaces. The party also pledges to accelerate tree planting and woodland creation with a new tree planting taskforce, and there will be an increased focus on growing nature rich habitats like wetlands and peat bogs to both store carbon and support wildlife.

Amber Allott is NationalWorld’s environment and sustainability specialist, covering all things green - from climate to conservation. If you liked this article you can follow Amber on X (Twitter) here and sign up for the free daily NationalWorld Today newsletter here - with Amber bringing you the UK's most important, pressing, weird and wonderful environmental stories every Tuesday.

You can keep up with the rest of NationalWorld’s election coverage by checking in with political editor Ralph Blackburn. You can follow Ralph on X (Twitter) here or sign up to his free weekly newsletter Politics Uncovered, which brings you the latest analysis and gossip from Westminster every Sunday morning.

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