Green Party manifesto 2019: 12 key policies explained


The Green Party of England and Wales has launched its 2019 manifesto, called If Not Now, When? It sets out the polices the party aims to introduce should it win the election.

The full document, sets out a "Green New Deal" - proposing measures from replacing fossil fuels to insulating houses and investing in cycle paths.

1. Spend £100bn a year to cut emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions would be cut to zero, to tackle climate change.

All major parties promise strong action on the climate, but the Greens are the most radical by far.

The Conservatives passed a law obliging the UK to halt virtually all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Labour is aiming for earlier than 2050. The Liberal Democrats are even more ambitious, with a 2045 target. But the Greens say emissions must be eliminated by 2030.

It would mean, within a decade, petrol and diesel vehicles being replaced. Gas heating boilers would be switched for, say, hydrogen. All homes would be well insulated and all emissions from industry avoided or captured in rocks. People would eat less meat, drive less in smaller cleaner cars and curb flying.

The advisory Committee on Climate Change, which provides independent advice to government, says 2050 is the earliest credible date for achieving net zero emissions for most sectors of the economy.

These targets would apply to the whole of the UK.

Media caption,
Jonathan Bartley: "The green new deal is an an idea whose time has come"

2. Invest £6bn in the NHS

Funding for the NHS would rise by £6bn a year until 2030, with a further £1bn per year for nursing higher education.

The Green Party is earmarking £6bn a year of the money raised from its tax policies to increase the NHS budget in England above existing plans. Labour has committed to a similar annual increase by 2023/24, but the Green policy would kick in immediately and run till 2030. But predicting what the NHS will need a decade from now is anyone's guess.

The party wants a "huge" reduction in private sector involvement without saying quite how much will be retained (for example using private hospitals for routine surgery).

There is a push for devolution of healthcare to local communities. But there can be wide variations in quality in different areas ,and removing national level scrutiny may not always be in the best interest of patients.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all run their own health services, but they will also benefit from any extra funding.

3. Remove fossil fuels from the economy

Tackle climate change by transforming the economy

The Green Party manifesto envisages a significant revolution in how the economy functions, spending over a trillion pounds during the five-year Parliament.

The basic philosophy of spending tens of billions on decarbonisation is common to most of the parties standing for election, but the Greens argue that the low interest rates currently charged on government borrowing create "an unparalleled opportunity for public investment" to tackle the issue.

A carbon tax will apply to all oil and gas extraction and to the use of petrol, diesel and aviation fuels. This will raise consumer prices, and frequent flyers will face a levy. Petrol and diesel cars will be phased out by 2030.

The manifesto focuses on the new jobs in new clean and green industries, but clearly under these plans many jobs will be lost in currently existing carbon-intensive sectors - from manufacturing to automotive to aerospace.

This will apply to the whole of the UK economy, although Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may have some freedom in how they implement the policies.

4. Plant 700 million trees by 2030

Encourage farmers to adopt greener working practices, and reduce meat in our diet.

The Greens want 50% of farms to be doing agro-forestry in a decade - that's growing vegetables or raising livestock between rows of trees. This would change the way the countryside looks, but the farmers' union say it's not impossible.

The Greens insist the UK must reduce emissions of methane from cows and sheep, by phasing in a tax on meat and dairy products over 10 years. This will be controversial. But they say they'll use the revenue to help farmers transition to more sustainable farming methods.

Much of this will apply to the whole of the UK.

5. Build 100,000 zero-carbon homes

Thousands of new homes for social rent every year.

The Greens will give local councils the power to bring empty houses back into use and setting an affordable living rent for all tenants. It is an ambitious and radical vision for housing delivery that, they argue, puts quality of life first - thinking about local green space, access to cycle ways and pedestrian access to shops and transport.

However, it sees the state taking a much more prominent role in the delivery and management of housing, particularly in the rental sector, a change of emphasis that will concern some house-builders and landlords.

Housing policy and some elements of transport are devolved.

6. Scrap tuition fees

No tuition fees for undergraduates and write-off debt for ex-students who paid a £9,000-a-year fee.

This is a big offer from the Greens to young people. The cost to cover a single undergraduate year group during their whole time at university costs about £9bn. The cost of writing off existing debt for graduates who have paid fees of £9,000 a year or more is estimated by economists at about £33bn.

Education is devolved so this will only apply in England. Scottish students already don't pay fees at Scottish universities.

7. Fund a basic income of £89 for everyone

A Universal Basic Income for all adults, regardless of their income.

The Greens say this would simplify the current system, replacing most existing benefits except housing benefit. They say this will free people from job insecurity and help those not reached by the current system.

They say that no-one currently on benefits would be worse off under Green UBI, which would roll-out completely by 2025. There would be extra for families with children and pensioners would get £178 - nearly £10 more than the current state pension.

It's expensive - the Greens have costed their proposal at £86bn on top of current pension and benefit spending of £256bn. It would be paid for by a tax on carbon emissions and other tax changes, such as removing the income tax personal allowance.

Opponents say other welfare arrangements would more efficiently help those who need it most.

This is likely to apply to the whole of the UK, although devolved nations may have some discretion in implementing it.

8. Improve energy efficiency in millions of homes

Get 10 million homes to the top energy rating within 10 years.

This is an ambitious goal. Your Energy Performance Certificate, or EPC, is a measure of how energy-efficient your home is. Almost every building has one, and you can check your rating online. The average rating is D. Very few homes get the highest A rating, which is what the Green Party is aiming for.

The Greens are particularly interested in fixing existing buildings. They call this plan "a deep retrofitting" which, along with better insulation in every home, will cost £24.6bn.

UK nations have control over their own housing policies so the Green Party would need to coordinate with the devolved administrations.

9. Ban single-use plastic

Extend plastic bag tax to bottles, single-use plastics and micro-plastics.

All major parties now have plans to curb plastic waste. The Greens want to extend the plastic bag tax to plastic bottles, single-use plastics and microplastics - and to expand plastic bottle deposit schemes.

They would ban the production of single-use plastics for use in packaging.

But some experts fear that that apparently straightforward policies developed at a time of political stress can lead to the use of other materials which might be worse for the planet in different ways. For instance, glass bottles, for instance, don't typically harm wildlife, but they are much heavier than plastic, so they create higher carbon emissions when they are transported.

At the moment these kinds of policies are decided separately by the UK government for England and by the devolved administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

10. Invest £4.5bn-a-year in social care

Free personal care at home for people aged 65 and over.

Older people who need a lot of help with tasks such as washing, dressing and medication would no longer have to pay for that help at home. Such a system has operated for 20 years in Scotland, where a weekly contribution of £177 is also made to the cost of residential care.

The Green Party manifesto doesn't mention residential care - this might explain their low estimate of the overall cost of free personal care.

It says councils in England would get £4.5bn a year to provide this support. Experts estimate the cost of free personal care in England in both settings would be £6bn a year in 2020/21 rising to £8bn by the end of the next decade.

Image source, Getty Images

11. Spend £2.5bn on cycle routes

Also scrap HS2 and electrify the whole rail network.

The Greens want the car to be increasingly seen as out-dated.

Money for cycle routes would represent a massive increase on previous governments' spending. A rail network which runs solely off electricity is a noble promise, however, at present roughly two thirds of the UK's network is not electrified. And their wish for more train services hits a more basic problem: in a lot places there simply isn't any spare capacity.

That takes us to one of their other grabby proposals: scrap HS2. The project hasn't been well-managed and will possibly cost more than £100bn. But the scheme is in motion and has already cost more than £7bn. Proponents say it's needed to free up capacity for more passengers and freight.

The Greens' transport wish-list feels revolutionary, but some of it will be hard to achieve in a quick timeframe and without spending large sums of public money.

Transport is partially devolved but overall policies on the UK's rail and road network are dealt with by the UK government.

12. Scrap first-past-the-post

Replace it with a "fair and proportional" alternative.

Analysis by Tom Barton, BBC political correspondent: The Greens tell us they want to reform the UK's "disgustingly unfair" first-past-the-post voting system. Under it, the candidate with the most votes in a constituency becomes MP, with no benefits from coming a close second.

In 2017, the Green Party won more than 500,000 votes, but had just one MP elected.

Voting reform is popular among smaller parties and is perhaps the only issue that unites the Liberal Democrats and the Brexit Party. However, the public has been asked what it thinks about one proposal - introducing the Alternative Vote system under which voters would rank candidates - at a referendum in 2011. And 67% voted against it.

What do the other parties offer?

What are the parties promising you?

Here's a concise guide to where the parties stand on key issues like Brexit, education and the NHS.

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