UK And Net Zero Pledges: How Do Party Approaches Compare?

According to the Climate Change Committee, the chances of the UK achieving its climate targets have worsened, despite climate change becoming one of the most important issues for voters [1]. However, a close look at the UK’s major political parties reveals huge differences between their net zero targets, including between Labour and the Conservatives. These differences matter not just for those voting in the election, but for the UK’s international reputation on climate. This article compares the different parties’ policies on Net Zero for the 2024 General Election.

by Samuel Abel

Party Policies: An Overview

Reform UK

The rhetoric of Reform UK regarding the climate crisis and net zero borders on climate denial, with correspondingly  weak policies. Its Chairman Richard Tice said on BBC Breakfast last month that net zero would make “zero difference to climate change”, instead calling for the world to ‘adapt’ [2]. Unsurprisingly, Reform would scrap the UK’s net zero targets altogether, along with all renewable energy subsidies, while increasing oil and gas licences in the North Sea.


Since Rishi Sunak’s watering down of net zero policies last September, such as pushing the transition to electric vehicles back to 2035, he has consistently talked about the costs rather than the benefits of net zero [3]. The party hasn’t dropped its commitment to reach net zero by 2050, and has pledged to treble offshore wind capacity by 2030. However, they are the only major party other than Reform which wants to increase the number of oil and gas licences in the North Sea. This trend fits with the Conservative administration’s historic stance on net zero.


The Scottish National Party’s net zero policies remain weak, and largely in line with the Conservatives. After dropping their pledge earlier this year to cut carbon emissions by 75% by 2030, they refuse to rule out further North Sea oil and gas licences [4]. Both the SNP and the Conservatives have committed to decarbonise heating and invest in energy efficiency in 1 million homes, respectively. On its own, this will be insufficient to meet 2050 net zero targets, given that households are the source of 26% of the UK’s CO2 emissions [5].

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats employ stronger rhetoric when it comes to net zero, describing it as an “existential threat” which requires “bold, urgent action” [6]. The party has pledged some strong net zero policies, including a 2045 target for emissions and a 2030 target for banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. However, these respectable pledges are overshadowed by their failure to rule out new oil and gas licences, and a vague promise to provide home insulation and heat pumps to those on low incomes ‘over 10 years’.


Excepting the Green Party, Labour has the boldest net zero policies of all the major parties. Unlike Reform and the Conservatives, it would ban new oil and gas licences in the North Sea, and maintain the 2030 target for transitioning to electric vehicles [7]. And it has the most ambitious plan out of all the major parties – including the Greens – when it comes to energy use in homes, pledging £12.6bn of investment to improve energy efficiency in 5 million homes. Perhaps most importantly, one of its ‘Five Missions’ is to “Make Britain a clean energy superpower”. It plans to do this by setting up publicly-owned Great British Energy to create “650,000 green jobs” and transition to zero carbon energy by 2030 [7].


The Greens take all the most popular net zero policies even further. Instead of net zero by 2050, they would commit to a 2040 timeline [8]. As well as banning new oil and gas licences, they would additionally halt recently-granted licences, such as the Rosebank field. They would invest £9bn in low-carbon heating in homes, and push for an incredibly ambitious 2027 deadline for transitioning to electric vehicles.

Fig. 1 – table of pledges compared and compiled by the author.


When compared to previous general elections, we can draw several conclusions from these policies. Some things have remained the same: at least one party (in this case Reform) presents climate-denying arguments, and there is still a widespread failure to call out the expansion of new oil and gas fields, despite vast scientific literature urging against this [9]. Yet every mainstream party, except for Reform, and despite differences in rhetoric, supports the transition to net zero and proposes some kind of energy efficiency plan for households. Most importantly, the party most likely to be in government as of this week – Labour – has placed clean energy at the heart of its manifesto. It is true that Labour back-tracked on its £26bn green energy pledge, and that its policies are not nearly as strong as the Greens [10]. Nonetheless, it should be a source of optimism that the likely next government will be the first to put renewable energy and the transition to net zero at the top of its political agenda.


[1]. Climate Change Committee. (2023, June 1). Progress in reducing UK emissions – 2023 Report to Parliament. Climate Change Committee. Retrieved July 1, 2024, from 
[2]. Evans, S. (2024, May 31). Reality check: the Reform UK party’s claims on the climate crisis examined. The Guardian. Retrieved July 1, 2024, from 
[3]. Crerar, P., Harvey, F., & Stacey, K. (2023, September 20). Rishi Sunak announces U-turn on key green targets. The Guardian. Retrieved July 1, 2024, from
[4]. Carrell, S. (2024, April 18). ‘Reprehensible retreat’: fury as Scottish ministers scrap carbon emissions pledge. The Guardian. Retrieved July 1, 2024, from
[5]. Office for National Statistics. (2022, August 12). Climate change insights, families and households, UK: August 2022. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved July 1, 2024, from
[6]. George, Sarah, ‘Lib Dems outline vision for net-zero by 2045 in new manifesto’, Edie. Retrieved July 2, 2024, from 
[7]. Evans, D. (2024, June). Make Britain a clean energy superpower – The Labour Party. The Labour Party. Retrieved July 1, 2024, from
[8] Green Party, ‘Powering up Fairer, Greener Energy’. Retrieved July 2, 2024, from 
[9]. IPCC. (2023). Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (H. Lee & J. Romero, Eds.). AR6 Synthesis Report. 
[10]. Mason, C., & Seddon, P. (2024, February 8). Keir Starmer: Labour ditches £28bn green investment pledge. BBC. Retrieved July 1, 2024, from 
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