Liberals recognise the value of development in areas that do not damage the environment. We must have industry to improve the lot of impoverished people at both home and abroad, but we must remember that there is only so much oil, coal and other mineral resources and we must try to exercise strict controls over what we use and to what purposes we put them. There must be no more production for production’s sake, no more “planned obsolescence”. We need a policy of producing what we need and that such products should be as durable, repairable, and of as good a quality as is possible, designed with recycling and reduction of pollution during manufacture and disposal in mind. Liberals propose mandatory minimum guarantee periods of several years as a good way of combating planned obsolescence.
The production and consumption of energy is a major polluter. Liberals were the first to draw attention to the problems of acid rain and global warming and call for:
- the promotion of more economical use of energy in transport, power generation, house construction, the insulation of plant and buildings, and energy efficiency standards in all new buildings. Transport in particular is a major energy consumer and energy conservation should be taken into account when planning all future projects such as motorways and new aircraft. Liberals believe that the need for travel can be greatly reduced by more considered planning;
- greater investment in research into the most economical and clean methods of storing and generating energy, particularly renewable sources such as barrage schemes, solar, wind and wave power. Liberals also find merit in combined heat and power systems and district heating schemes fuelled by the incineration of non-recyclable waste products;
- full exploitation of current technology for the curbing of vehicle and power station emissions and research into new technologies;
Government must take the lead and produce a national plan for all energy resources. It is for this reason that we opposed the privatisation of the gas and electricity industries and favour having the generation and supply industries under democratic control. We see gas and electricity as a coordinated whole with a vital role to play in energy conservation, not as competing companies.
We oppose the generation of electricity by nuclear fission due to the risks inherent in the design and function of such power stations and the problem of contamination of the surrounding environment and disposal of nuclear waste. Liberals call for an end to the use of nuclear fission but support the continued research and development on nuclear fusion.
Liberals are also concerned at the rate at which we are depleting other resources, such as coal, oil, natural gas and non-fuel minerals, and the way these are shown as being part of the nation’s “wealth” production. We would seek a review all the nation’s finite resources, with a view to a limit being put upon their rate of extraction and an increase in the tax on their use.
Liberal foresee problems with the nation’s water supply. Over the past few years, rainfall has been below the long term average and, in order to meet a high growth in demand for water, many authorities are increasingly resorting to hosepipe bans, restrictions on irrigation for agriculture, and over-reliance on “ground water” drawn from rivers and from bore holes, with disastrous effects on the water table, tree root systems, soil and clay structure. A country with a temperate climate surrounded by water has no business to be short of the stuff. We therefore:
- welcome the recent programme by the water companies to reduce the proportion of the supply which is lost through leaks in the mains system;
- propose an investment programme in reservoir, rain collection and regional grid systems. A national grid feasibility study should be undertaken to investigate methods whereby water might be transferred from areas where there is an excessive supply to areas where there is a shortage;
- propose a plan for a phased installation of desalination plants along our coastline and a rapid reduction in the use of bore holes by water companies and others, all to be policed by the National Rivers Authority.
Embodied in a Liberal plan for water would be a consumer policy to ensure that the supply is pure and free of contamination. In particular, we would prohibit the addition of fluoride or any other substance to public water supplies for the purpose of affecting or influencing directly the development or function of any part of the human body, nervous system or mind.
Liberals oppose households having to bear the cost of the installation of water meters.
Protecting the Environment
The safeguarding and enhancement of our environment is as vital to the future of this planet as is the prevention of global war. Liberals recognise that the planet’s ecology is as much in the hands of men and women in local communities as it is in those of national governments. Britain can take a lead by putting its own house in order.
Liberals call for:
- and end to all dumping of waste at sea;
- the creation of a Pollution Inspectorate with power to investigate actual and potential causes of pollution, to order its reduction and to penalise institutions responsible;
- research into the use of raw materials, recycling and problems created by the manufacture of indestructible synthetics and noxious substances;
- more money to be made available for recycling projects and legislation to ensure that manufactured goods contain minimum percentages of recycled materials.
Liberals deplore the recent marketing of a self-cooling drink can which involves the venting of refrigerant liquid into the air to chill the can’s contents, thereby releasing a powerful “greenhouse” gas into the atmosphere. We believe that this represent yet another unwelcome development of the disposable packaging of foodstuffs which is costly in terms of resource consumption, costly to dispose of, is environmentally unsound, and which past governments have done nothing to curb. The Liberal Party calls for an investigation into the packaging of foodstuffs with a view to the standardisation and promotion of reusable containers, and the eventual phasing out of much of today’s disposable packaging.
In the countryside, copses, hedges and wildlife habitats must be preserved and compulsory powers must be used to ensure the survival of meadow land, wetlands and nature reserves. Grants for the provision of new hedges and the restoration of meadow land that could viably support a grazing herd should be introduced, together with the designation of “Landscape Areas” to protect such places from the rigours of intensive farming. We also recognise the benefits derived from planning controls in ensuring that our environment is protected from exploitation by advertising signs and hoardings, and call for existing laws to be developed to provide further protection for rural and urban environments.
Liberals call for statutory protection rights at national level relating to societies such as The National Trust and English Heritage provided that these are not in conflict with the principles of freedom of movement, religious observance, or cultural interests. The on-going management and procurement of open spaces should be monitored by new Green Space Authorities, presided over by non-partisan Regional Directors. Proposals relating to open spaces, particularly the selling off of school playing fields and other public land should be presented to the residents within communities affected and their views given a favourable hearing.
It is inevitable that tourism will have a detrimental effect on the rural environment. To help combat this, rural communities should be encouraged to be reliant on small industries providing for their needs, instead of being too dependent on tourism for economic security.
Dealing with Waste
We recognise that there will be a continuing need for landfill sites but believe that these should never be the major means of waste disposal. Every opportunity should be taken to convert waste material to other uses by recycling, composting and energy recovery. In particular we would welcome a nation-wide programme for the construction of small scale (under 60,000 tonnes capacity) non-polluting incineration plants to reduce the haulage distances for waste materials, reduce the need for landfill and to provide the capacity for energy generation.
Liberals believe that we have a right to information about products offered to us. As well as comprehensive ingredients labelling, Liberals would like to see product labels showing the country of origin of the product and whether any ingredients are the result of genetic engineering.
For cosmetic, household, garden and medicinal/remedy products, labels should clearly show whether the product or its ingredients have been tested on animals by or for the manufacturers, or by or for other parts of the same company or corporation. We would support a universal labelling scheme to this effect.
We would also support a scheme to identify the environmental impact of every product’s manufacture, use and disposal. We believe that such schemes are necessary in order to provide people with informed choices about what they buy, and because companies’ own labelling is often confusing or misleading (eg: a company can label a product “not tested on animals” although the ingredients within the product have been tested, and companies who declare that they do not test on animals may be contracting these tests out to other companies.)
Liberals believe that the owners and employees of businesses should have a better awareness of the environmental impact of their activities. We therefore call for all companies to include in every third Annual Report and Accounts an “Environmental Audit Report” to be carried out by appropriately qualified professionals. The report should include expert opinions on the company’s dependence on non-renewable resources in its production processes; the form and extent of any pollution emanating from the company’s operations; and energy efficiency, use of road transport, packaging, product life and any other relevant factors. The report would be available to the public through filing at Companies House.
The Urban Environment
In urban, as well as rural, areas, Liberals recognise that the failure to meet the needs of the people living in such communities has lowered the quality of life for many. Uncontrolled and badly planned commercial development in many of our cities has gone ahead to the detriment of the environment and community life. Liberals believe that the urban environment should be placed in the hands of the people living in such areas by reviving urban communities through the creation of Community Councils on the lines of Parish Councils. These, together with community enterprises and residents’ and tenants’ co-operatives, would revive a sense of responsibility in local people for their own environment.
Present planning practices such as ‘zoning’ mean that people are often unable to work near where they live, causing dependence on cars. The integration of housing and industry should be encouraged, whilst strengthening planning controls on the location of hazardous industrial processes.
Liberals favour the rehabilitation of buildings and protection of our architectural heritage. Such schemes could provide an ideal environment for residential use, small retail outlets, businesses and workshops.
Liberals call for an investigation into the stress and nuisance caused by noise with a view to introducing comprehensive legislation.
Liberals condemn the Government’s bias in favour of massive spending on roads and the environmental damage this causes and call for a national rail strategy and increased investment in the rail network. In addition, unused lines should be maintained as wildlife corridors, footpaths and cycle-ways or reopened, where practical, as light railways.
In every area of policy making, Liberals call for a “Green Audit” to assess the effects of policy on the environment.
In common with other developed countries, Britain is profligate in the use of resources and it will be difficult to persuade developing countries to be responsible until we have put our own house in order.
Globally, Liberals recognise that international co-operation is required to safeguard the planet and avoid ecological disaster. We recognise the potential role of the United Nations is developing and co-ordinating action. Liberals urge the establishment of a task force for the preparation of a UN Covenant on Environment and Development.
Liberals call for international law to recognise ecocide as an offence against humanity comparable with genocide. We look for minimum standards of environmental rights and obligations, increased awareness of the impact of natural calamities and increased research, education and communication in all parts of the world. Sustainable development must take into account local knowledge, indigenous viewpoints and the participation of local peoples. Action on the environment requires freedom of access to information and an adequate system of addressing complaints and grievances.
Liberals recognise the role of the developed world in creating many of the problems faced in the third world. In particular, the indebtedness of may third world countries militates against sustainable and environmentally friendly development. Liberals therefore call for the removal of third world indebtedness initially by the retrospective cancellation of all debt which should have been met by adequate levels of aid related to the proper distribution of the world’s resources.