Election 2017 turned out to be a revelation, with the Conservative majority lost and a new power-brokering tightrope set to dominate Westminster.
In a hung Parliament, what will become of environmental, low carbon priorities? Here’s the opinion breakdown…
Could Brexit soften?
The Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) suggests a weak Conservative Government may end up negotiating a softer Brexit.
In its industry update, EIC argues this in turn could make it more likely that UK environmental law post-Brexit will mirror EU law indefinitely (the EU Parliament stated recently that full UK compliance with all EU environmental regulations is a non-negotiable part of any UK/EU trade deal).
So, Election 2017 could increase certainty in some environmental markets. But equally a weak UK government must make an unstable and unpredictable run up to Brexit more likely, which could have serious economic repercussions.
Soft Brexit is likely good for low carbon, but instability and poor economics are not. Hints are it could be a choice between two devils.
Business Green thinks, ‘There will be particular concern amongst green groups about the DUP’s record on environmental issues and climate change.’ Following Conservative losses, a DUP partnership looks to be Theresa May’s only way to try and govern.
At the time of reporting, no alternative had been offered for a Labour-led coalition. Corbyn has offered to form a government, but Liberal Democrats are saying coalition isn’t on the cards.
Business Green notes the DUP manifesto does call for, ‘A secure and sustainable energy supply for both domestic and business customers.’
But it makes little or no mention of renewables, energy efficiency, or climate policy. “The perception of the DUP is not a pretty one for renewables and climate change,” an industry source told Business Green.
“Their manifesto is one we’ve been looking at for a while, it is not openly hostile, but also not particularly big on renewables, although there is a big focus on reducing manufacturing costs.”
Business Green also observes that industry hopes a hung Parliament may provide an opportunity for a cross bench informal coalition on climate and energy issues. “There is alignment on climate and energy issues across major party manifestos,” their source continued.
“The electorate is clearly divided, and not along party lines, so it’s really important that we all grow up and all work together on certain issues, and the green economy is one of those.”
Conservative energy reforms, proposed in their manifesto, could now be out to pasture; they may lack the votes, DUP or otherwise, to get them through. The new pot for industrial energy efficiency could also be threatened.
Overall; ‘Britain’s green policy is now at a standstill, and sustainability professionals will be concerned that this could cause a further delay to the release of some major proposed environmental legislation, such as the Clean Growth Plan and the 25-Year Environment Plan,’ writes EDIE.
But, ‘On the plus side, the Conservatives’ loss of seats will mean the party can be more closely held to account over the level of ambition when it comes to key environmental legislation.’
Election 2017 tears up the rule book
In every sense, the political floodgates are now open.
Paddy Ashdown has tweeted; ‘If this election was about Brexit, then must we not conclude that Britain has rejected Mrs May’s hard Brexit?’
That softening could be welcomed by some groups. DesmogUK argues; ‘As things move forward, it’s looking like it will be a lot harder for significant environmental deregulation to take place without a fight. Meaning staying strong on environmental policies could be an easy win for the opposing parties.’
This illustrates the fascinating balance of tit for tat and real world policy-making that is today’s politics. Jonathan Bartley, The Green Party co-leader, spots more dichotomies, noting; ‘The Green Party got nearly twice the votes of climate-denying DUP, who may now have a hand in Government.’
Of late, politics truly has become a strange brew. All that’s guaranteed is low carbon must fight for progressive, disruptive energy and environment policy to maintain high billing in the new Westminster.
That in itself is nothing unusual. But the unexpected circumstances of the coming battle have shocked everyone.