We have just seen another general election, the third since 2015. This time the result was decisive with a large majority for the Conservatives, except in Scotland where the SNP dominate. Brexit clearly dominated, with leave voting Labour constituencies swinging to Conservative. However, for once the major political parties were aligned on the trajectory of a green economy. The Conservatives, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats all committed to a net-zero mandate in their respective manifestos. Whilst the ambition varied between the parties with the Conservatives considered the least ambitious, the commitments were still much more than we would have expected just a year ago. The Conservatives committed to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, and this had of course already been enshrined into law before the election. The Conservatives also confirmed the establishment of an Office for Environmental Protection which will uphold performance against environmental standards post-Brexit. This includes new legal targets for air quality.
The green commitments of the major parties were undoubtedly influenced by the surge in public concern about climate change and the environment this last year. David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2, Greta Thunberg, and climate strikes by our children energised the climate change agenda and gave green issues a high priority in election manifestos in a way that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. So our newly elected Conservative Government has already set itself climate targets including net zero and the public, opposition parties and organisations like the Sustainable Energy Association must now “hold its feet to the fire” (excuse the pun) to ensure existing commitments are delivered and to push for more.
The SEA’s approach has always been to engage constructively and propose solutions based on modelling and research rather than simply highlighting problems. We work collaboratively across industry and across parliamentary parties. We have developed excellent relationships with Government Ministers, Government departments, parliamentarians and influential organisations such as the Committee on Climate Change and our lobbying campaigns engage multiple stakeholders to ensure that decision makers receive pressure from numerous sources. Our EPC Band C campaign is making excellent progress, with BEIS lawyers having reviewed the content of the Bill and supporters ready to back it in the Ballot Bill draw which will be the second Thursday following the Queen’s Speech.
Another way the SEA influences policy is by developing reports on topics of interest which propose policy solutions backed up by robust analysis. Reports produced this year have included Social Housing: Leading the way to net zero, Halving Energy Use in New Homes and Next Steps for Boiler Plus. We also submit responses to numerous consultations including those on the Future Homes Standard and energy efficiency in the non-domestic PRS which we are working on now – both close in early January.
Some organisations align themselves to particular technologies and/or particular parties but one of the strengths of the SEA is that we are technology agnostic and engage across the political spectrum. This agnostic stance and our reputation for constructive evidence based engagement has always enabled us to develop positive relationships with whichever government is democratically elected and we are confident this will continue.
Commenting on the general election result, SEA Chief Executive Lesley Rudd said:
“The Sustainable Energy Association looks forward to working with the new Government to achieve net zero emissions and to create living and working spaces fit for future generations. This last year people in the UK, and around the world have demonstrated the importance of climate change and demanded urgent action from policy makers. In 2020 the UK will host the UN global climate negotiations at COP26 and we need to ensure that we have policies in place to deliver on our net zero commitment by then. We need policies to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings and to decarbonise our heating. This is an emergency and we need to treat it as such.”
We expect a new Conservative Government to be in place in a matter of days, and we will hopefully see a budget and a spending review soon. Following an election which saw parties competing with each other on policies to deliver net zero, there should be ample opportunity for us to keep up the pressure on Government to deliver on the climate change agenda. The Sustainable Energy Association is working now on preparing briefings, reconnecting with re-elected MPs, and developing relationships with new MPs. We will of course be writing to Ministers once they are in post. There is much work to be done but in this time of great transition in the UK, with a new political landscape, now more than ever we must engage to help shape policy. This last year has clearly demonstrated how much difference people can make and the Sustainable Energy Association intends to keep up the pressure for action on policy makers and “hold their feet to the fire”.