Introduction

As we near election day, it is essential that, whichever party is in government on July 5th 2024, they have a clear, comprehensive and ambitious plan for phasing out UK fossil fuel production and use in a rapid and equitable manner.

In March 2024, Oil Change International released Troubled Waters, a report that developed a set of benchmarks for rating North Sea countries’ oil and gas production policies by their level of alignment with the Paris Agreement. The UK came out second-bottom, only behind Norway, with the highest potential CO2 emissions from undeveloped, licensed fields.

We ran the manifestos for each of the UK-wide parties who had MPs elected during the 2019 election through the same benchmarks, to demonstrate how each set of policies would move the dial on the UK’s performance.

 

Summary

While none of the parties has a manifesto that can bring the UK into full alignment with the Paris Agreement, the Green Party has set out the most ambitious set of policies, and, crucially, outlined significant investment to realise them. The Labour Party’s positions would be a significant step forward for the country, and still put the UK on a footing as one of the climate leaders for the Global North. However, their manifesto falls critically short of sufficient action and urgently needs to identify more investment. The Liberal Democrat Party suffers for trying to sit on both sides of the fence, while the Conservative Party is moving in the wrong direction. It is also worth noting that, to some extent, all parties rely on carbon capture and storage technology for some level of emissions reductions (though the Green Party has clarified this would be restricted to hard to abate industrial processes) which is unproven, costly and a distraction tactic from the fossil fuel industry. 

 

 

Conservative Party

Overall, the Conservative Party manifesto is grossly unaligned in 5 categories, unaligned in 5 categories and partially aligned in 1. Of the four parties analysed, the Conservative Party manifesto is the only one to worsen the UK’s performance overall. While most of the benchmarks remain the same, their commitment to legislating for mandatory annual licensing rounds moves them from Unaligned to Grossly Unaligned in that category. 

Despite a commitment to “maintain the leadership on climate change we achieved at COP26”, the policies put forward in the manifesto make it more difficult for the UK to achieve alignment with the Paris Agreement, and put us at risk of backsliding even further. If the Conservatives want to be considered climate leaders in any way, they must seriously and urgently reconsider their approach to fossil fuel production and use.

 

Green Party

The Green Party outperforms the rest by some margin, with 5 fully aligned, 5 close to aligned, and 1 partially aligned. The party’s commitment to fully end licensing and no new fossil fuel exploration would be a huge step forward for the UK, and make way for the country to become a member of Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance (BOGA). As a whole, their manifesto would put the UK miles ahead of other North Sea countries. 

Unique among the parties, the Green Party’s manifesto acknowledges the scale of funding that will be needed to make sure we have a just transition. They have comprehensive policies for skills development, community ownership and regional investment, and their willingness to borrow to invest would enable their plans to have the means to create the change needed. 

However, there is room for improvement. In particular, the level of commitment to funding for Global South countries commits to increasing the climate budget to 1.5% of Gross National Income, with an additional contribution to the Loss and Damage fund. This is an increase, but the party’s commitment is short of meeting the UK’s fair share of our estimated £59bn/year needed in climate finance. Additionally, while they commit to making finance “available to support the development of environmentally and socially sustainable economies of low-income countries to tackle the causes and impacts of the climate and nature emergencies”, it is not clear how much would be given specifically to support fossil fuel phase-out for Global South countries.

 

Labour Party

Overall, the Labour Party makes the second biggest improvement to the UK’s standings behind the Green Party, with 3 close to aligned, 4 partially aligned, 1 unaligned and 3 grossly unaligned. Their manifesto would put the UK ahead of Denmark, currently the highest performing North Sea country.

Labour’s commitment to reforming the regulatory system and removing Maximum Economic Recovery, ending new licensing for oil and gas and removing the investment loophole in the windfall tax are all important steps in the right direction. Additionally, they have a number of promising commitments around local energy, job creation and skills development. Their commitment to working closely with trade unions and impacted communities would provide a key foundation in developing a just transition.

However, a big missing piece for Labour is the funding to achieve these policies. Constrained by the party’s fiscal rules, and a dramatically smaller budget than the £28bn initially floated for their Green Prosperity Plan, it is difficult to see how Labour can achieve the just transition they have laid out without much larger investment.

The next steps for Labour need to be setting a production end date, making a commitment to revoke undeveloped licences, and an urgent rethink of their fiscal rules.

 

Liberal Democrat Party

Coming in the middle of the pack, the Liberal Democrat Party does improve the UK’s performance, but not by a huge amount. Their rankings include 2 grossly unaligned, 5 unaligned, and 4 partially aligned.

Where policies are laid out, there is some good progress on ending fossil fuel subsidies, improving the protection of our marine environment and demand reduction. However, some of these policies lack detail in how they will be enacted in practice, and so it is hard to determine their actual impact on fossil fuel phase-out.

As such, the majority of our ratings have been concluded from a lack of detail within the manifesto, and assuming the Party  plans to maintain the status quo for the first 4 benchmarks, which cover ensuring Paris-aligned production. 

There is no time for parties to sit on the fence regarding fossil fuel phase-out, but this manifesto still leaves a lot of ambiguity in relation to the Liberal Democrats’ position.

 

Process

Based on the 2019 election, four UK-wide parties had MPs elected and are included in this analysis – the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrat Party. 

For each of these parties, we analysed their manifestos against our benchmarks, and assessed where these policies would put the UK if fully implemented. Where there is no mention of policies related to a specific benchmark, we have assumed that the status quo will remain. 

Each party was given advance notice of the analysis, and a subsequent 1-week period to offer clarifications, further commitments or comment. Our aim in this is to ensure parties understand the impact of their policies, and to provide them with guidance as to where they need to improve their position for meaningful climate action.

 

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