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General election 2024: the impact of parties’ sustainability pledges is all down to the detail

Posted: 24/06/2024

Climate change and sustainability is given prominence in the manifestos of all the major parties, with the exception of Reform. The headline manifesto pledge relating to sustainability is Labour’s plan to create Great British Energy. If elected, the party will give the initiative £8.3 billion over the next government with a key aim to create green energy. 

Overall, the Labour and Conservative parties’ manifestos communicate a similar stance on sustainability. Labour’s ambition to decarbonise the grid by 2030 isn’t far removed from the Conservative’s pledge to decarbonise the grid by 95% by 2030 and by 100% only five years later. 

The two main parties also promise to spend similar figures on improving the energy efficiency of homes; Labour is promising an extra £6.6 billion than what is already committed to upgrade homes, while the Conservatives would invest £6 billion. No detail is given as to how, except that the Conservatives would adopt an energy voucher scheme. The Lib Dems are more open, detailing how they would improve insulation and introduce heat pumps. 

In reality, upgrading homes is often far from simple. Our team carries out a lot of work for clients in a number of sectors looking to retrofit properties, such as installing PV systems and improving insulation. This has become increasingly challenging as supply chain challenges have combined with high inflation. On larger schemes, a 40-week lead time to produce solar panels and the required HV caballing and connections makes it hard for investors to commit to such timescales given the volatility in the market and extremely high construction costs. On the micro development side, no matter what funding is made available to improve homes, whether a scheme works will depend on availability of products in the market as we do not manufacture them in the UK. Pleasingly, inflation has now reduced considerably.

On the whole, clients will be less concerned about the content of manifestos and more focused on welcoming a period of stability. Given the parties offer few specifics in relation to how money will be spent, whether through grants or investment, much of the impact will be felt once detail emerges. Until then, the drive for sustainability will continue to be largely driven by business.

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP