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Global Citizen Election Guide 2019: Where All UK Parties Stand on Climate Change, Feminism, and Extreme Poverty

Why Global Citizens Should Care
We’re about to enter the 10-year countdown of the fight to end extreme poverty and achieve the Global Goals by 2030. But how Britain shapes that mission depends on how it votes on Dec. 12 — and you get to help decide the direction. Become a Global Citizen and join our movement to take action on the Global Goals here.

The deadline to register to vote has passed, every political party has finally published its manifestos, and there’s just days to go until what could be the biggest general election in a generation. In football terms, one might call this “squeaky bum time.”

But with time running out before the Dec. 12 vote, millions of people still do not know which way they’re going to vote. 

Indeed, in the 2017 election, there were more non-voters up for grabs (14.5 million) than people who ticked the box for either of the two leading parties — the Conservatives (13.6 million) or the Labour Party (12.9 million).

When it comes to issues at stake, we’ve heard an awful lot about Brexit and the National Health Service (NHS). Of course, they’re vital — YouGov reports that voters rank them as the most important this election cycle — but so far there’s been a lack of noise about a few of the planet’s defining threats.

Next year, Global Citizen is going to be focusing its campaigns on three crucial areas: the climate crisis, gender equality, and human capital — which means examining the most effective ways to empower people to lift themselves out of extreme poverty, for example, through quality education, nutritious food, or universal health systems.

Britain is the world’s fifth richest country — and is perfectly poised to act. Moreover, action is what its people demands: over 70% believe climate is more urgent than Brexit; the majority of young women in England now identify as a “feminist”; while 90% of the British public think it’s important to help people in developing countries.

Here’s what the UK’s biggest political parties have pledged on climate, gender equality, and extreme poverty in their manifestos:

The Climate Crisis

This might be the last general election we have the chance to prevent irreversible damage to the world’s climate. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there is now less than 11 years to go before it’s too late. 

The polls suggest that the Conservative Party are set to win back a large majority. If that happens, it’s much more likely that we won’t have another election until 2024, since their manifesto pledged to scrap the Fixed Term Parliament Act — the loophole that allowed Theresa May to call the 2015 election before her five year term was up.

At that stage, there will only be six years left to save the planet: essentially just one more parliamentary term. Meanwhile, Greta Thunberg has urged everyone who can vote does so — because she understands that time is seriously running out. 

The UK may have been the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency, but this is the first platform parties have had to put forward concrete policies to lay out a plan for a greener future.

Conservatives

  • Convince other countries to commit to a net-zero emissions target by 2050 — just like Britain legislated to achieve itself in June this year.
  • Create a Nature for Climate fund worth £640 million which will deliver plans to plant 30 million trees every year.
  • Establish a Blue Planet fund worth £500 million to help protect oceans from plastic pollution, overfishing, and rising temperatures in the sea.

Labour

  • Invest in a Green Industrial Revolution to fast-forward progress towards a net-zero emissions economy by 2030 — 20 years earlier than the target currently legislated — including a target of obtaining 90% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
  • Launch a £400 billion National Transformation Fund to invest in British infrastructure that meets environmental targets, including a £250 billion Green Transformation Fund that will create 1 million green jobs in the UK and make transport and energy more sustainable.
  • Build 7,000 new offshore wind turbines, 2,000 new onshore wind turbines, enough solar panels to cover 22,000 football pitches, and plant 2 billion trees by 2040.

Liberal Democrats

  • Set a new legally binding target to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2045 — five years earlier than the current target — including a goal to get at least 80% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
  • Plant 60 million trees every year to absorb carbon, protect wildlife and improve health, while ending fossil fuel subsidies by 2025.
  • Create a Green Investment Bank to support investment in new zero-carbon technologies and infrastructure.

The Scottish Nationalist Party

  • Demand the UK government meets Scotland’s climate targets of 75% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, and all new cars to be electric by 2032.
  • Launch a new Green Energy Deal that will ensure renewable energy schemes get the long-term certainty needed to support investment.
  • Transform transport to make bus and rail services greener and encourage citizens not to use their cars or take domestic flights.

The Green Party 

  • Launch a Green New Deal to meet a target to have net-zero emissions by 2030.
  • Apply a carbon tax to raise prices on fuels like petrol, flights, and oil and gas extraction.
  • Build 100,000 zero-carbon homes, improve energy efficiency in existing buildings, ban single-use plastics, plant 700 million trees by 2030.

Plaid Cymru

  • Target a zero-carbon and zero-plastic goal by 2030.
  • Deliver a £20 billion “green jobs revolution” paid for by the UK increasing its capital investment into Wales by 1% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 10 years. 
  • Build three tidal lagoons, a barrage across the Usk in Newport, a new offshore wind farm, and 20,000 new green social homes in Wales.

Brexit Party

  • Plant “millions” of trees to capture carbon dioxide.
  • Promote a “global initiative” at the UN.
  • Recycle our own waste and make it illegal to export it abroad.

Gender Equality

If climate has conquered the headlines in 2019, the year before was arguably all about gender.

The #MeToo movement was first founded by Tarana Burke in 2006, but gained global attention over a decade later in October 2017 after a viral tweet from Alyssa Milano asking women to share their stories of sexual abuse earned hundreds of thousands of responses within days.

By 2018, the movement had expanded into dozens of countries, languages, and cultures; entire industries had been rocked with allegations of harassment against the powerful; and millions had been raised in funding to assist women with legal cases. But in Britain, rape prosecutions are still at their lowest level in a decade; forced marriage and FGM continue to be rife in minority communities; while the most high-profile #MeToo scandals have led to negligible repercussions for the alleged perpetrators.

There’s clearly a lifetime’s worth of work to do — in the UK and around the world. How will political parties challenge the sexist status quo?

Conservatives

  • New trade deals with developing nations will encourage women’s empowerment.
  • Continue to fight crimes against women and girls including forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), and rape.
  • Help end the preventable deaths of mothers and children worldwide, one of the agreed subheadings of Global Goal 3 for good health.

Labour

  • “Put women at the heart” of government by closing the gender pay gap by 2030, introducing menopause policies around flexible working, and decriminalising abortions across the UK.
  • Appoint a commissioner for violence against women and girls to improve practices to better prosecute rape and domestic violence cases.
  • Triple funding to grassroots women’s organisations and establish an independent overseer of allegations of abuse within the international development sector. 

Liberal Democrats

  • Scrap the tampon tax and provide free sanitary products in public buildings, including schools, hospitals, shelters, libraries, GP surgeries, food banks, and universities.
  • Enforce gender-neutral school uniforms to help break down gender stereotypes.
  • Launch a national rape crisis helpline and bring the Istanbul Convention — which combats violence against women — into UK law.

The Scottish Nationalist Party

  • Campaign for the UK to ratify the Istanbul Convention to tackle violence against women and domestic violence.
  • Close the gender pay gap by introducing fines for businesses that fail to meet the Equal Pay Standard.
  • Ensure all public boards have 50/50 gender balance by the end of 2020.

The Green Party 

  • Legislate to make misogyny a hate crime and increase the police’s capacity to deal with domestic violence.
  • Develop and implement a UK-wide strategy to tackle gender-based violence, including domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse, FGM, and trafficking. 
  • Fund rape crisis centres and women’s refuges so every survivor of abuse gets the support they need.

Plaid Cymru

  • Support a legal ban on employers making a woman redundant through pregnancy.
  • End gender segregation in the workplace by promoting more flexible working.
  • Introduce gender-balanced management boards in Welsh Government funded organisations.

Brexit Party

  • Review the case of the “WAPSI” women — who were unexpectedly short-changed by recent rises in the state pension age. 
  • No further policies.

Extreme Poverty

Fifty years ago, half the world lived in extreme poverty — meaning surviving on less than $1.90 a day. Now, that number stands at just 9%: 736 million people around the globe. There’s a whole bunch of reasons why that’s the case, like the growth of China and India as economic superpowers. But the lifesaving power of international aid has played its part.

Britain is legally required — by its own laws, not anybody else’s — to spend 0.7% of its Gross National Income (GNI) on aid. That equates to about £14 billion a year that, since 2015 alone, has helped vaccinate 76 million children against deadly diseases, provided almost 50 million mosquito nets, and almost completely eradicated polio.

But UK aid is under threat. Although there is a cross-party consensus that protecting UK aid is important, the government has previously suggested that the Department of International Development (DfID) — the arm that invests aid abroad — could be merged with the Foreign Office, putting the key target of poverty alleviation at risk.

Some newspapers have even argued that the aid budget should be scrapped altogether — with DfID having to call out a string of misleading headlines that attempt to corrupt the truth that DfID is in fact one of the most transparent and effective aid spenders on the planet.

The fight to end extreme poverty is the same as the fight for feminism, healthcare, education, and finding solutions to the climate crisis. It’s all connected through the UN’s Global Goals — 17 internationally-agreed objectives to end extreme poverty and tackle its root causes by 2030. But will Britain deliver on its promise to help?

Conservatives

  • Continue to spend 0.7% of GNI on international development — prioritising ways to help aid beneficiary countries become more self-sufficient. 
  • Focus on supporting girls and women around the world in obtaining 12 years of quality education.
  • Host the world’s first international LGBT conference to support marginalised communities in the developing world.

Labour

  • Continue to spend 0.7% of GNI on international development — prioritising reducing inequality as a marker for success so aid is spent according to need, not commercial interests.
  • Create a Unit for Public Services within DfID to uphold basic rights on Global Goals 3, 4, and 6 for good health, quality education, and clean water and sanitation.
  • Transform key social justice policies, including halting weapons sales to Saudi Arabia to be used against people in Yemen and advocating for human rights at every bilateral diplomatic meeting. 

Liberal Democrats

  • Continue to spend 0.7% of GNI on international development — prioritising initiatives related to the climate crisis, gender inequality, and human rights. 
  • Fight for the position of women in the developing world, including working towards ending female genital mutilation (FGM) and expanding reproductive rights.
  • Increase financial support to fight the refugee crisis, especially in countries that host millions of refugees.

The Scottish Nationalist Party

  • Continue to spend 0.7% of GNI on international development — ensuring that the budget is not spent on issues outside of humanitarian aid. 
  • Press the UK government to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals to reduce poverty, injustice, and inequality, and end extreme poverty by 2030.
  • Support women who play roles in peacebuilding and help women who are disproportionately affected by armed conflict.

The Green Party 

  • Increase spending from 0.7% of GNI on international development to 1% — prioritising on the basis of need, not trade or defence interests.
  • Ensure more aid is spent on electronic cash transfers with monthly payments to women in the poorest countries.
  • Focus on cooperation to tackle inequality, conflict, and the climate crisis.

Plaid Cymru

  • Although they supported the 0.7% of GNI committment in the 2017 general election, it isn't clear what the party position is from the new manifesto.

Brexit Party

  • Cut 50% of the international development budget to spend at home instead.
  • No further policies.