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Comparing party pledges: How Labour and the Conservatives plan to achieve net zero

Marley Bennett and Philip Sellar from our Strategic Communications team offer their perspectives and analysis on the commitments of the Labour and Conservative party manifestos on the evolving landscape of UK environmental policy and net zero.

Both the Labour Party manifesto and Conservative Party manifesto include significant commitments to supporting the roll-out of net zero infrastructure.

We have brought together the key policy commitments from the two parties, alongside analysis from two members of our Strategic Communications team. 

Marley Bennett was a Labour Party Councillor on Bristol City Council where he served as Cabinet Member for Climate and Ecology, and previously worked for Labour’s Shadow Climate Change Minister. 

Philip Sellar was a Conservative Councillor who was part of the administration on Aberdeen City Council, a city that’s heavily involved in the UK’s energy sector. 

Marley Bennett

Consultant, Strategic Communciations

“There is a clear distinction between Labour and Conservative policy, with the former committed to a clear-cut ending of the de-facto ban on onshore windfarms in England and ceasing to issue new licences for domestic oil and gas production.

“Making Britain a ‘green energy superpower’ is the second of Labour’s five key missions, and this agenda forms a centrepiece of the policy offer from the party that is almost certain to form the next government. 

“With Labour promising to create more funding for public services by achieving economic growth rather than raising taxes, speeding up and streamlining the process to deliver new net zero and other infrastructure will have to be an immediate priority. 

“Crucially for industry, Labour has promised to overcome some of the key ‘blockers’ preventing investment in green industry, with a commitment to reform the planning system to make it easier and cheaper to deliver nationally significant infrastructure and making it quicker to get a National Grid connection. 

“As we now know the National Planning Policy Framework will be updated within the first 100 days of a new Labour government, the first test will be seeing what amendments the party introduces.”

Philip Sellar

Assistant Consultant, Strategic Communications

“Fundamentally, the Conservatives and Labour both agree on working towards net zero by 2050. Both parties also generally agree with further investment towards renewable and low carbon energy such as offshore wind, hydrogen and nuclear. 

“Where there appears to be disagreement is on the future of the oil and gas sector, the appetite for some onshore renewables, how net zero infrastructure goes through the planning system, targets and the level of government intervention required. 

“Following conflict in Europe and the subsequent impact on supply chains, Conservative Party thinking on oil and gas has shifted. Energy security has emerged as an issue. New oil and gas licences have partially been justified by senior Conservative politicians on energy security grounds along with protecting thousands of jobs connected to the sector and assisting with domestic energy transition. Some argue that it may help with reducing reliance on carbon heavy imports from elsewhere in the world. The Conservatives want to issue annual oil and gas licensing rounds while Labour have stated that no new licences would be issued under them. 

“On the theme of energy security, the Conservatives have committed themselves to the construction of new gas power stations to ‘back up’ renewables and provide a ‘reliable energy source’ to the UK’s energy mix. 

“The Conservatives have expressed support for renewables. However, there clearly exists some caution depending on the kind of net zero infrastructure. Particularly onshore wind and solar farms being two examples focused on in their manifesto. Whilst in late 2023 the UK Government announced that the de-facto ban on new onshore wind would end, their manifesto emphasises the need for ‘democratic consent’ where a balance is made between energy security and the views of local people near prospective sites. Furthermore, the Conservatives want to ensure that any onshore windfarm development can also be of direct benefit to the immediate community. This is also touched on in the Labour manifesto. 

“The Conservatives have a preference for solar infrastructure to be built on rooftops or brownfield sites, having recently updated the National Planning Policy Framework to protect the ‘best quality agricultural sites’ with a presumption that these sites would be used for food production. As part of a commitment to protecting rural landscapes and the green belt generally, the Conservatives introduced new rules to prevent solar farm clusters from emerging. 
“This appears to be at odds to the ‘back the builders not the blockers’ approach Labour has adopted.” 

Key environmental and sustainability points from the Labour and Conservative manifestos are summarised below.


Renewable Energy
  • Intends to reach its goal of clean power by 2030 by working with the private sector to double onshore wind, triple solar power, and quadruple offshore wind.  
  • Energy generation commitments by 2030 include:
       o 50 GW from solar 
       o 60 GW from offshore wind 
       o 35 GW from onshore wind 
Great British Energy
  • Will create a new publicly owned energy company, Great British Energy, which Labour says will unlock significant public and private capital investment towards green infrastructure. The new company, headquartered in Scotland, will work in partnership with industry and initially focus on projects that will increase local power generation across the country.  
  • Committed to allocate £8.3 billion to GB Energy over the next Parliament, with funding coming from increasing the windfall tax on oil and gas companies
  • Committed to ensuring the long-term security of the nuclear power sector, supporting proposals for new nuclear power stations and Small Modular Reactors whilst extending the lifetime of existing plants.
  • GB Energy will absorb the functions of Great British Nuclear. Labour wants GB Energy to eventually have the organisational capability and expertise to deliver megaprojects such a new nuclear power stations. 
Carbon Capture
  • New carbon capture projects and electric battery factories will bring jobs, wealth and pride to the Midlands, North West and North East England and North East Scotland.
Green Investment
  • Plans to create a National Wealth Fund to act as a ‘strategic body to invest and create good jobs in the green energies of the future’.
  • States its Green Prosperity Plan will cut household energy bills and create 100,000s of new green jobs.
  • £500 million is to be allocated to green hydrogen over the next Parliament. GB Energy will also have a role in the development of hydrogen projects. 
  • Labour has set a target of 2030 for ‘zero carbon electricity’ production. 
Planning process
  • Will introduce ‘new tough targets’ for consenting decisions on renewable projects and a new framework to monitor decision times. The aim is to reduce the time a project goes through the planning process from years to months.
  • Labour will also ask local authorities to actively identify suitable areas for renewable energy generation.

Conservative Party

Renewable Energy
  • The Conservatives have committed to:
       o 70 GW from solar by 2035
       o 50 GW by offshore wind by 2030
Green Investment 
  • Invest £1.1 billion into the Green Industries Growth Accelerator to boost supply chains, with a promise to ‘reward’ companies that decide to invest in the manufacturing of renewables into the UK.  
  • Make the UK a net exporter of electricity by building links with neighbouring countries and deliver new offshore cables to help reduce the need for onshore infrastructure
  • Continue to support Hinkley and Sizewell C, and to scale up nuclear power with Great British Nuclear.
  • Would approve two new fleets of small modular nuclear reactors within 100 days of a new Parliament.
Carbon Capture 
  • Start the building of two clusters in North Wales, the North West of England, and Teesside and the Humber and progress the second tranche of projects in Aberdeenshire and the Humber.
  • Support Scotland’s transition to new industries such as hydrogen which includes £15 million towards Energy Transition Skills Zone’s skills programmes.
  • Work toward 95% of electricity produced from ‘low carbon sources’ by 2030, with full decarbonisation by 2035.
Planning Process 
  • Halve the time for decisions made on nuclear power, whilst maintaining a process of seeking ‘democratic consent’ for onshore windfarms and for solar farms to be located on brownfield or rooftops.

Reach out to Marley Bennett or Philip Sellar to learn how these policies could reshape projects and consents across the UK, or discuss how our Strategic Communications team can support in navigating the evolving landscape of sustainable development.

21 June 2024

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