Green Party manifesto: The key policies explained

Jonathan Bartley and Sian Berr

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The Green Party 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, available here, sets out a “Green New Deal” – proposing measures from replacing fossil fuels to insulating houses and investing in cycle paths.

Set binding targets for a zero carbon economy

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

Analysis by Roger Harrabin, BBC environment and energy analyst

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

The Conservatives, for instance, passed a law obliging the UK to halt virtually all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This monumental task would reshape the economy and affect many people. The Liberal Democrats are even more ambitious, with a 2045 target.

But the Greens go even further. They say emissions must be eliminated by 2030 – and they will spend £100bn a year on the task.

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.

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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.

However, the Greens say risking climate catastrophe is not a credible option.

More money for the NHS

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

Analysis by Hugh Pym, BBC Health Editor

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.

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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.

Removing national level scrutiny may not always be in the best interest of patients.

Is this policy UK-wide?: Health is devolved, which means Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all run their own services – but they will also benefit from any extra funding.

Remove fossil fuels from the economy

Tackle climate change by transforming the economy

Analysis by Faisal Islam, economics editor

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

This is clearly a massive amount of money, but reflects dealing with the “climate change emergency” by rapidly attempting to take the fossil fuels out of the economy.

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

They propose replacing most benefits with a “universal basic income” of £89 per week for everyone, with extras for families and pensioners, at a cost of £86bn a year.

A carbon tax will apply to all oil and gas extraction and to the use of petrol, diesel and aviation fuels, raising consumer prices. 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.

Transform for agriculture and the countryside

Plans to plant millions of trees, encourage farmers to adopt greener working practices, and reduce meat in our diet.

Analysis by Roger Harrabin, BBC environment and energy analyst

The Greens’ policies would transform the countryside. They want to plant 700 million new trees by 2030 to soak up greenhouse gas emissions and curb climate change.

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Image caption

A tree-planting scheme in North Doddington, Northumberland

This is more than the Lib Dems propose (60 million a year) and more than twice what the Conservatives are offering (30 million a year).

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.

They say they will support the transition to plant-based diets 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.

Transforming the political system

The Green Party would scrap the current first-past-the-post voting system and replace it with a “fair and proportional” alternative.

Analysis by Tom Barton, 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.

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Voting reform is a cause celebre of smaller parties across the political spectrum and is perhaps the only issue that unites the Liberal Democrats and the Brexit Party.

They argue they are motivated not simply by self-interest, but by a desire to ensure a full spectrum of views is represented in Parliament.

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. However, 67% voted against change.

But a lot has happened in UK politics in the last eight years, and the Greens are likely to propose a markedly different voting system.

Scrap tuition fees

Scrap university tuition fees for undergraduates and write-off debt for ex-students who paid a £9,000-a-year fee.

Analysis by Branwen Jeffreys, BBC education editor

The big offer from the Greens to young people is their promise to scrap university tuition fees.

The cost to cover a single undergraduate year group during their whole time at university costs about £9bn.

There’s also a promise to write-off existing debt for graduates who have paid fees of £9,000 a year or more. The outstanding debt for these graduates 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.

Improve energy efficiency in millions of homes

To get 10 million homes to the top energy rating within 10 years.

Analysis by BBC Reality Check

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.

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In 2018, just 3,080 out of 1,376,991 “dwellings” on the register in England and Wales had an A rating – just 0.22%.

The Greens are particularly interested in fixing existing buildings. When you take out new builds, there were 1,131,068 existing dwellings put on the register last year.

Just 557 had an A rating – 0.05%. The Greens call this plan “a deep retrofitting”, which along with better insulation in every home, will cost £24.6bn.

Housing is devolved

Going to war on plastic

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

Analysis by Roger Harrabin, BBC environment and energy analyst

There’s been huge public concern about plastics in seas and rivers, following David Attenborough’s distressing TV images of wildlife suffering as a result.

All major parties now have plans to curb plastic waste.

The Conservative government proposed to ban single use plastic stirrers, straws and cotton buds – all small items that easily find their way into waterways.

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.

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.

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.

Invest in social care

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

Analysis by Alison Holt, BBC social affairs correspondent

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.

The Greens also say they would give councils an extra £10bn a year to reverse cuts to all public services. Much of this would be needed to stabilise adult and children’s social services.

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More cycle routes and axe HS2

Spend £2.5bn a year for cycle routes and footpaths and electrify the rail network

Analysis by Tom Burridge, BBC transport correspondent

The Greens’ pitch on transport has some bold, stand-out headlines. Money for cycle routes would represent a massive increase on previous governments’ spending.

They’re not just arguing that the car shouldn’t be king. They want the car to be increasingly seen as out-dated.

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.

Build zero carbon homes

The party promises 100,000 new homes for social rent every year

By Mark Easton, BBC home editor

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 housebuilders and landlords.

Other policies include a pledge to restrict the use of stop and search, because of its impact on minorities.

The only reference to crime is to extend the definition of hate crimes to include misogyny and prejudice against trans people, helping create a society that “celebrates diversity”.

The Greens say they are proud to stand up for free movement and migrants’ rights and will create a humane immigration system, ending indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers.

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