At the headline level, the cross-party consensus on tackling climate change remains broadly in place. The leaders of the three main parties recently signed a joint agreement reiterating their shared commitment to, in the next parliament, limiting global temperature rises, delivering on the targets set out in the Climate Change Act 2008 and transitioning rapidly towards a low-carbon economy. The three parties have also been supportive of the UK government's efforts to agree a more ambitious EU-wide greenhouse gas emission target for 2030.
However, if we look beyond this apparent consensus it becomes clear that there are significant differences between the parties in terms of their approach to energy and climate issues. Focussing on the commitments made in the newly published manifestos, this short briefing paper compares each of the parties' stances on international climate negotiations, carbon targets, energy efficiency, renewables, generation capacity and the energy markets.
Whatever the makeup of the government after May 2015, the dividing lines between the parties on these issues will have huge implications from the very start of the next parliament. Vital decisions will need to be made regarding the UK's role in the Paris talks later this year, the fifth carbon budget, a 2030 target to decarbonise the power sector, and the future of low-carbon funding will all have profound consequences for the UK's energy and climate change pathway to 2030. Increasing attention will undoubtedly be paid to the costs of low-carbon policies as the costs of the transition increase – managing this, and ensuring that it is as just and low-cost as possible, will be a defining challenge for the incoming government.
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