Out-Law Analysis 9 min. read

UK general election 2024: climate and sustainability policies

Climate and sustainability will be a priority for whichever party is successful in the upcoming UK general election, with the main parties setting out their aims and objectives within their recently published manifestos.

There is much for businesses to digest, with changes to transport policies, finance, and water regulation just some of the issues addressed ahead of the 4 July vote.

Here, we take a side-by-side view of the main parties’ policies set to impact climate and sustainability and the path to meeting net zero across the UK during the next parliament and beyond.

Climate change

Climate change will continue to be a huge focus for whoever wins the election.

Labour would double down and ensure their institutional framework for policy making reflects commitments to reach net zero and to meeting carbon budgets. They would also instruct the Bank of England to give due consideration to climate change in its mandates and align UK development work with foreign policy aims to better tackle climate change.

Read more of our analysis of the parties' 2024 manifesto pledges

The Conservatives would reform the Climate Change Committee to give it a mandate to consider costs to households and UK energy security in its future advice. The Conservatives will also rule out creating further green levies.

The Liberal Democrats have set out plans to restore international development spending to 0.7% of national income, with tackling climate change a key priority for development spending.

If elected, the party would campaign for all OECD countries to agree to end subsidies for foreign fuel projects as well as linking the UK Emissions Trading System with that of the EU.

The Liberal Democrats have also pledged to meet the UK’s national determined contribution (the commitments to implement national law changes made at COP28) and to implement the carbon border adjustment mechanism for high-emission products, aiming to protect UK businesses from unfair competition in relation to products manufactured in countries where there are no or less carbon taxes.


Labour would mandate UK-regulated financial institutions – including banks, asset managers, pension funds, and insurers – and FTSE 100 companies to develop and implement credible transition plans to align with the 1.5C goal of the Paris Agreement.

The Conservative Party would continue to ring-fence commitments to international climate finance if they win, with Labour including an ambition to make the UK the “green finance capital of the world”.

The Liberal Democrats would require all large companies on UK stock exchanges to set targets and report on progress in achieving net zero emissions. They would also regulate financial services to encourage climate-friendly investments and require pension funds and managers to show that their portfolio investments are consistent with the Paris Agreement.

The party would create new powers for regulators to act if banks and other investors are not managing climate risk properly.

Nature and adaptation

If Labour win, they would improve flood resilience and preparation across central government, local authorities, local communities and energy services, following several instances of extreme weather in recent times. They would also expand nature-rich habitats such as wetlands, peat bogs and forests.

The Conservatives would expand the ‘Blue Belt’ programme further by consulting UK overseas territories on any opportunities. They have also pledged to cut the red tape that holds back the planting of trees in the English planning system, and to launch a new design competition for urban greening.

The Liberal Democrats would also improve such habitats, creating and restoring habitats like saltmarshes, mudflats, and seagrass meadows to guard against coastal flooding. They would also work to restore peatlands as a means of carbon storage, banning the use of horticultural peat and burning of heather on peatlands.

Generally, the Lib Dems would continue UK support for the UN loss and damage fund, as well as introducing a new duty of care for the environment. They would also pass a new Environmental Rights Act, setting out aims to protect at least 30% of land and sea areas by 2030 for nature’s recovery.

They would tackle ‘greenwashing’ by introducing new blue carbon and soils carbon standards while working with international partners to fight deforestation around the world. The party have also set out plans to work together with European neighbours to tackle the nature crisis, including applying to join the European Environment Agency.

Plastic pollution and waste

Labour are committed to reducing waste by moving to a circular economy, while the Liberal Democrats have pledged to introduce a deposit return scheme for food and drink bottles and containers.

The Lib Dems have also set out an aim for the complete elimination of non-recyclable single-use plastics within three years, with a further ambition to end plastic waste exports by 2030.


Labour would crack down on water companies by giving regulators new powers to block the payment of bonuses to executives who pollute UK waterways. They would bring criminal charges against persistent law breakers and impose automatic fines for wrongdoing, ensuring the independent monitoring of every outlet.

Labour would also put failing water companies under special measures to clear up water while implementing schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act to require sustainable drainage systems in new developments.

The Conservatives would work also with water regulators and ban executive bonuses if serious criminal breaches are committed by building on existing legislation for unlimited fines. The money collected from such fines would be used to invest in river restoration projects.

Rishi Sunak’s party would also extend the £50 water rebate for those in the South West of England and reform the ‘price review’ regulatory process for water companies.

The Liberal Democrats would introduce a sewage tax on water company profits as well as setting legally binding targets to prevent sewage dumping into bathing waters and sensitive nature sites by 2030. They would also use nature-based solutions to tackle sewage dumping.

The party would give local environmental groups a place on water companies’ boards and mandate that boards publish accessible real-time data on any sewage they dump.

They would also introduce a single social tariff for water bills to help eliminate water poverty within the next parliament.


Labour have pledged to accelerate the roll out of charge points for electric vehicles and to restore the phase-out date of 2030 for new cars with internal combustion engines. They would also develop a long-term strategy for transport, ensuring transport infrastructure can be delivered efficiently and on time.

The Conservatives have been in power during the introduction of low emission zones (LEZ) across the UK. However, the party would reverse the ultra-LEZ (ULEZ) in London if they win the upcoming election.

The Liberal Democrats have included aviation policies within their manifesto. This includes a ban on short domestic flights where a direct rail option taking less than two and a half hours is available for the same journey. Additionally, they would require airlines to show carbon emissions for domestic flights compared to the equivalent rail option. They would also oppose the expansion of Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and London City airports and any new airport in the Thames Estuary. A moratorium on net airport expansions UK wide would also be introduced until a national capacity and emissions management framework is in place.

The party would reform the taxation of international flights to focus on those who fly the most, introducing a new super tax on private jet flights. They would also remove VAT exemptions for private, first-class and business class flights.

Public procurement

Delivering an integrated procurement model to speed up defence procurement and confirm ESG considerations consistent with investment in the defence industry forms part of the Conservatives’ manifesto.

On the other hand, the Liberal Democrats would expand the market for climate-friendly products and services with steadily higher criteria within a public procurement policy.

Tax and other headline commitments

General business

Labour said they would introduce a new UK industrial strategy and re-establish an Industrial Strategy Council – the latter being a pledge also made by the Liberal Democrats, which said they would put the body on a statutory footing. Labour has also pledged to publish a roadmap for business taxation for the next parliament.

The Conservatives said they would promote digital invoicing and improve enforcement of the Prompt Payment Code.

Corporation tax

Labour have pledged to cap corporation tax at the current level of 25%. The Conservatives have said they would not increase corporation tax either. The Liberal Democrats have said that they would make the case for increasing the global minimum rate of corporation tax to 21%.


Labour have pledged no increase to VAT. The Conservatives said they would keep the VAT threshold under review. The Liberal Democrats said they would cut the VAT rate applicable to public charging of electric vehicles to 5%.

Income tax and National Insurance

Labour have said that they would not impose increases to National Insurance or the basic, higher or additional rates of income tax. The Conservatives have pledged to abolish the main rate of National Insurance entirely by the end of the next parliament. The Liberal Democrats said they would raise the tax-free personal allowance, which applies before income tax is levied, when public finances allow.

Business rates

Labour have said it will replace the business rates system. It has also pledged to end the VAT exemption and business rates relief for private schools.

The Conservatives have promised to enable councils to retain all business rates growth within a defined zone for 25 years. They have also pledged to increase the multiplier on distribution warehouses that support online shopping over time.

The Liberal Democrats have said they would abolish business rates and replace them with a commercial landowner levy.

Tax reliefs

Labour have promised to retain a permanent full expensing system for capital investment and the annual investment allowance for small business.

The Conservatives have said they would lift the employee threshold, allowing more companies to be considered medium-sized and benefit from associated tax reliefs. In line with an announcement set out by chancellor Jeremy Hunt in his March Budget, the Conservatives have also committed to extending the ‘full expensing’ policy to leased assets.

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to expand rural fuel duty relief.

Other tax pledges

Labour have said that they would abolish the non-domiciled tax status, if elected to government.

The Conservatives have said they would not impose any increase to the rate of capital gains tax.

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to reform capital gains tax, increase the UK’s digital services tax rate from 2% to 6%, and restore the bank surcharge and bank levy revenues to 2016 levels in real terms.

Employment, skills and immigration

Labour have pledged to establish a youth guarantee, where all 18- to 21-year-olds would be given access to training, an apprenticeship, or support to find work,

Labour said they would also implement what they term a new deal for working people, in full. This, they said, would include banning zero hours contracts; ending fire and rehire; and ensuring workers have basic rights to parental leave, sick pay, and protection from unfair dismissal, from ‘day one’ in a job. 

Labour have also said they will establish a flexible growth and skills levy, change the remit of the independent Low Pay Commission, and reform the points-based immigration system. 

The Conservatives have pledged to create 100,000 more apprenticeships in England every year by the end of the next parliament.

They have also committed to maintain the national living wage in each year of the next parliament at two-thirds of median earning.

The Liberal Democrats have said that they would establish a new Worker Protection Enforcement Authority. They also said they would fix the work visa system and exempt NHS and care staff from the immigration skills charge.

Their other plans include to improve the quality of vocational education, including skills for entrepreneurship and self-employment; replace the apprenticeship levy with a broader skills and training levy; and create new lifelong skills grants for adults to spend on education and training throughout their lives.

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