What do the UK’s political parties want to do about the environment?

Here’s a handy breakdown of where Labour, the Tories, the Greens, the Lib Dems and Reform stand on climate change and pollution.

On Thursday 4th July, the UK will hold a general election. At this stage, it seems pretty clear which political party is going to win. But every vote helps nudge views and policies into mainstream political debate and the public consciousness. The well-being of the planet is everyone’s concern, so here’s the basic info about what some of the biggest parties are hoping to do about it.


Way out in front in the polls, Keir Starmer’s government in waiting” is a project that’s been designed to eliminate electoral risk, and to fully rebrand Labour in the public mind after the Corbyn experiment hit the skids. No Compromise Left Unmade!

So its flagship green policy – a publicly owned Great British Energy” company to invest in and speed up the rollout of renewable energy – is unsurprisingly a child born of compromise too.

The ambition is bold. Getting the UK running on 100 per cent clean energy by 2030 would be a world-leading effort. But in an attempt to stem the relentless flow of Tory attacks claiming the numbers didn’t add up, Labour slashed the budget for Great British Energy in February this year. This has left some big question marks over exactly how the clean energy revolution is going to be paid for.

Under Starmer, Labour has made a play for a centre ground that has alienated many natural Labour supporters and created a feeling of ambivalence in the wider population. But even if it’s pretty much impossible to muster up enthusiasm for Starmer himself, Labour’s green policies would be a positive step forward.

There are some encouraging details beneath the headlines on investment, too. If Labour takes power, expect to see more onshore wind farms (Conservative planning rules meant they were de-facto banned for the last decade), no new oil and gas licences in the North Sea and a ban on bee-killing pesticides. Labour would also introduce new laws to stop wild swimmers getting shouted at by irate landowners.

So basically, they’re the ones that

…will be playing catchup as a critical decade for getting on top of the climate crisis unfolds.

Their policies in a few words?

Things can only get (slightly) better.

Overall rating


Green Party

The clue’s in the name: this lot were into climate change before it went mainstream, and naturally their green policies are way more ambitious than any other UK party. An election analysis by Friends of the Earth put the Greens top of the pile with a score of 82/​100 (the Conservatives only managed 27/​100).

Some of the Green Party’s eye-catching pledges include stopping airport expansion, taxing frequent flyers and switching all petrol cars with EVs – and they’re planning to get this all done by 2030. If every political party had been talking like this ten years ago, we’d be in a much better position than we are now.

Some Green policies definitely stretch the boundaries of what’s credible to achieve, but that’s really the point. They won’t be forming a Government, but they saw a surge in support at the local elections. They’re on track to add another MP in Bristol central, and they’re even winning over some wealthy rural voters with their strong stance on sewage and pollution (“effluent is turning the affluent green” as Politics Home described it).

The Greens’ unflinching commitment to prioritising the environment (and making sure the polluters, not the poorest, pay the bill) is the sort of straight talking a centrist Labour government needs to hear.

So basically, they’re the ones that

…have a plan to move fast and fix things.

Their green policies in a few words?

They treat the climate emergency like an emergency.

Overall rating



Rishi Sunak revealed his luke-warm climate convictions via a televised speech last September, where he made a big play of scrapping” policies that didn’t actually exist – like having seven separate recycling bins. He also long-grassed some important targets for phasing EVs in, and phasing gas boilers out.

There was no bounce in the polls for seven-bins Sunak, but the rhetoric of saving voters from the burden of green policies has remained a part of his pitch. The Tory manifesto includes a pledge to reverse the expansion of London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ), which has measurably improved the city’s air quality since being in place. His pledge to end the war on motorists” was a crude attempt at dragging climate policies into the culture wars. Thanks for that, Rishi. Very helpful.

The weirdest part of all this, perhaps, is that the targets Sunak is so eager to save us from were put in place and championed by his Conservative predecessors. It was Theresa May that locked the country’s net zero” targets into law (“net zero” means balancing the amount of planet-warming gases like carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere, with the amount we remove from it through things like tree planting). It was Boris Johnson who shouted from the rooftops about the UK hosting the UN’s climate conference in Glasgow in 2021. Liz Truss doesn’t count.

The point being, the Tories have generally made positive noises on climate change for the past decade (albeit whilst being sued for having an inadequate net zero strategy). And Sunak’s backtracking has gained them net zero support.

With a strategy to keep drilling for oil in the North Sea that not even the ex-boss of BP agrees with any more, the Tories now seem genuinely out of step with voters: surveys show that Tory MPs vastly underestimate how much people back wind and solar.

So basically, they’re the ones who

…tried to drag climate change into the culture wars.

Their green policies in a few words?

Doing the bare minimum.

Overall rating


Lib Dems

Did you see that video of the Lib Dems leader Ed Davey falling off a paddle board in the Lake District, in an attempt to generate some publicity about his policies on illegal sewage dumping? No? Well here’s a quick run down of where his party and its voters stand on green issues.

On the one hand, Lib Dem supporters are some of the most concerned about climate change, and they strongly support measures to cut carbon. The pary’s manifesto pledges to kick-start a ten-year emergency upgrade programme for households, starting with free insulation and heat pumps for those on low incomes. It’s pretty punchy stuff, less hand-wavy than Labour in lots of ways. And a bolder plan to get everyone’s drafty, damp flats insulated is long, long overdue. Friends of the Earth has them in second place, behind the Green Party, in their election league table. FotE have also been the most vocal critics of the state of our rivers and seas – which, as Davey’s paddle-boarding stunt suggests, is something the Lib Dems actually care about.

On the other hand, there’s a lingering sense that the Lib Dems are anxious about getting on the wrong side of motorists (and their freedom to charge about wherever they like), because they’ve proposed a reduction in the cost of petrol for drivers in the countryside part of their manifesto. And in constituencies where they’re taking on the so-called Tory Blue Wall (like in leafy Oxfordshire), being champions of the countryside can sometimes tip over into being reluctant when it comes to development, whether its housing or rural solar farms. But overall, the Lib Dems are on the right side of the green fence.

So basically, they’re the ones that

…will get the shit sluicing into our rivers under control.

Their green policies in a few words?

A bit better than Labour.

Overall rating


Reform UK

Reform is the only party pledging to actively dismantle policies to tackle climate change. And with Nigel Farage now at the helm, the prospect of Reform MPs in parliament is making environmentalists shudder. Those radical climate activists over at the London School of Economics described Reform’s manifesto as climate denial that undermines democracy”. Yikes.

Because the last referendum went so well and definitely didn’t leave a bitterly divided country in its wake, Farage (most likely baiting climate activists) began calling for another one on net zero. For now, Reform seems to have dropped that genius idea, and are instead cutting to the chase, pledging to scrap net zero altogether and issue new fracking licences.

But if voters really do leave the Conservatives in droves for Reform, it’ll be because they’re fanning the anti-immigration flames again, not because there’s a clamour for a yes/​no on climate change. Only 2 per cent of Reform voters list climate and the environment as their main concern.

The Reform manifesto manages to not mention nature or wildlife at all (what did they ever do for us anyway?) So far, their climate policies haven’t had much airtime in the election either. But with some of their biggest donors wearing their climate-sceptic credentials proudly on their sleeves, that might change as polling day approaches.

So basically, they’re the ones that

… are nostalgic for the golden era of fracking.

Their green policies in a few words?

They think climate change is a con.

Overall rating


Research for this article was provided by Adam Corner, a journalist and climate change expert.

More like this

The best of THE FACE. Straight to your inbox. 

00:00 / 00:00