Nature Abhors a Vacuum

The crucial green policies missing from Labour’s manifesto.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 13th June 2024

It’s a story of the good, the bad and the absent. There are some strong green policies in Labour’s manifesto. It will greatly increase investment in wind and solar power, block new licences for oil and gas fields, improve rail and bus networks and upgrade 5m homes. It will end the pointless badger cull, take action against polluting water companies and “expand nature-rich habitats”.

Unfortunately, these are counteracted by some powerful anti-green policies. Labour intends to sustain oil and gas production “for decades to come”. It says “we need to forge ahead with new roads”, though it doesn’t say why. It will force them through by “slashing red tape”, which means ripping up regulation. It promotes discredited snake oil remedies, such as carbon capture and storage (failed for 25 years) and “sustainable aviation fuels” (don’t exist, never will). The sole purpose of these fantasies is to avoid conflict with powerful interests while creating an impression of action.

But what really jump out are the absences. Where is the matching of climate policy to scientific knowledge? Where are the targets for nature restoration? Or for waste reduction? Where are the policies for dietary change or a shift in transport modes? Where is the protection for soil or marine ecosystems? Where is the rescue package for our collapsing regulators, without which environmental law is a dead letter?

Labour presents itself as a serious alternative to Tory failure and dysfunction. But it fails to engage seriously with the greatest dysfunction of all.