Climate Change As A Big Issue Debated By Leaders Of Political Parties All Across The World
Climate change is a big issue debated by leaders of political parties all across the world. The rise of climate change groups like Greenpeace and even more extreme movements like the Extinction Rebellion has put pressure on governments to act on climate change. There are over 28 countries which have declared climate emergencies. In the 2019 general election in the UK, many issues were important, one of those was, of course, climate change, which to some may have been the most important issue and therefore influenced who they chose to vote for. Most of the parties had some form of policy or solution on how to tackle the ‘climate crisis’. It could be suggested that different parties from across the left-right spectrum have different ideas about climate change and for that reason, some parties may take climate change more seriously than others. This report will, therefore, address the following research question: ‘Do left-wing or more left-leaning political parties in the UK take climate change more seriously than right-wing parties?’. We need to know which parties believe that the climate crisis is very important and which parties have climate change on the lower end of their priorities. Some parties may not believe that climate change is the main issue simply because to them the evidence suggests there is no crisis. It also helps us to understand why different groups/parties either believe or do not believe climate change is an emergency that needs to be tackled quickly.
The theoretical expectation that I will expect to find is that I believe that both left-wing and right-wing parties took climate change very seriously in the 2019 general election even though all the different parties who’s manifesto’s I analysed had different policies on climate issues, I do not expect to find any clear evidence to suggest that left-wing parties prioritise climate change more than right-wing parties in the UK. There is certainly a perception that right-wing groups and this could be because many of Europe’s right-wing populist parties are climate change deniers, however, I do not believe that these parties represent conservatism in the UK. It could also be due to unreliable tabloids like ‘The Independent’ and the ‘Guardian’ suggesting that the conservatives are bad for solving climate change. The Conservatives manifesto does not match that view. One of the main policies on the UK’s Conservative party’s manifesto is to reach net-zero by 2050. Therefore, I think that the answer to my research question is no, I do not believe that, in the UK, left-wing parties take climate change more seriously than right-wing groups.
The texts that I used were party manifestoes from 7 political parties in the 2019 UK general election. In most of the party manifestos, there was a section based on environment or tackling climate change which outlined that individual party’s policies on climate change issues. The sampling strategy that I used to collect these texts was purposive sampling. I felt that this was the correct method as I needed to select a certain number of left and right parties so that I could compare them. I used the manifestos from the Labour Party, Conservatives, SNP, Green Party, UKIP, Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats. The Labour party, SNP and the Green party are left-leaning parties. The SNP is centre-left while Labour and the Green Party are left-wing. The Liberal Democrats have usually tended to be centre; they are currently more left-leaning. Conservatives, UKIP and the Brexit Party are right-wing parties. It was important to have a mix of both left and right parties so that I could compare them with each other which would enable me to answer my research question and determine whether my theoretical expectation is correct. I was only required to choose 5 party manifestos however I felt that only 5 manifestos would not give me enough information. The more samples I have gives me more data on what different parties are saying about climate change and therefore allows me to give an informed response to the research question. I searched for the manifestos online and I was able to find the entire manifesto of each party’s on their websites. A limitation of my sample is that one of the party’s, the Brexit Party, had no known policy or plan for climate change. The Brexit Party are a right-wing party and therefore that shows that one party does not care about climate change and that party is right-wing which would go against my hypothesis. However, I still do believe it was still important to include the Brexit Party because it can help to understand why some parties do not believe that climate change is anything serious to worry about. Overall I feel that the quality of the texts are very high as they are the actual manifestoes of each party in the election. The manifestos are very detailed and clear about what any given party is proposing. However, in manifesto’s, parties may make some description of some policies brief and simple so that most members of the public can easily understand. The problem with this is that it can mean that the manifesto does not tell us everything about the policy or how a particular is going to be put in place/be paid for. An advantage of using party manifestos is that they are open to the public and free to look at on each parties website, so no permission is needed to analyse the texts.
To conduct my research I used quantitative text analysis. Another term for quantitative text analysis is content analysis. This type of text analysis involves analysing texts by categorising them. The content of these texts is compared and in this case, the different party manifestos are compared. I felt that I needed to do quantitative analysis when analysis party manifesto’s as my research question involved comparing how different parties in UK election approached climate change. One of the advantages is that content analysis is objective. I can measure the extent of how seriously left-wing and right-wing parties take climate change. The data is already there in the manifesto. Therefore there is less likely for my personal political bias to affect the results, which increases validity. Unlike interviews, there is no social desirability when it comes to content analysis. The texts are already there for us to analyse and the texts do not change their opinion when being observed unlike people do in interviews.
However personal bias is not eliminated in content analysis. We all have political bias and therefore that may have caused me to overlook some negatives of certain parties unconsciously. Another problem with content analysis, in this case, is that just because, for example, the word ‘climate’ appears many times in a particular manifesto, that does not mean that that party is necessarily highlighting the importance of climate change. A phrase or word may not be in the correct context, but it is considered relevant although the actual meaning of the word in that context is not being looked at. It works in the opposite way as well, where words which do not match the coding framework and not analysed but may be important as they are related to climate change. In this case, qualitative text analysis, also known as discourse analysis, may have been better as it can help understand words in the context of the text and how it compares to other texts. Overall, however, I needed to analyse each manifesto in a fair way and to the same standard. Content analysis allowed me to be systematic in my analysis and therefore provided me with more accurate comparisons between the manifestos.
As previously mentioned, my research was analysed using content analysis and therefore my approach to coding my texts was by using a coding framework. This coding framework has all 7 parties that I have analysed and there are 8 variables I have used that the parties will be measured on including more renewable resources, the climate change act and environmentally friendly transport. If the party has a policy they will implement in their manifesto, then it is marked as ‘1’ next to that variable, if not it will be marked ‘0’. In the manifesto it must explicitly say that one of the policies(variables) will be implemented, mentioning the words of that variable is not enough. The more ‘1s’ a party has will indicate that the party, whether left-wing or right-wing, takes climate change seriously.
This was the results of my analysis. What I found was that there was no significant evidence to suggest that left-wing parties are more likely to take climate change more seriously than right-wing parties. This, therefore, is in line with my theoretical expectation or hypothesis, that both left-wing and right-wing parties took climate change very seriously in the 2019 general election. The Brexit Party was the anomaly as they had no policies for the environment or anything to do with climate change. Although the Brexit Party is a right-wing party, I don’t feel that it is fair to suggest that they do not take climate change seriously because they are right-wing. The Brexit Party is a fairly new party which made clear that its sole goal is to leave the EU and many of the parties policies are about what happens after we leave the EU. If we ignore the Brexit Party, as it is an anomaly, then I found that all 6 other parties had policies relating to renewable energy and reducing fossil fuel consumption. What I also found interesting was that very few parties had some kind of policy which was linked to the Climate Change Act, only Labour and the SNP.
One of the more significant things that I found was that out of the 8 variables(policies), there were 3 variables in which all parties, except the Brexit Party, had policies. These 3 variables were Energy Efficiency, Reduction of Fossil Fuels and Renewable Energy. They all however, had different ideas about what their specific policies were for each one. For example, when it comes to renewable energy, the Conservatives emphasized wind energy by stating “Our world-leading offshore wind industry will reach 40GW by 2030, and we will enable new floating wind farms”. Labour promised to “deliver 90% of electricity and 50% of heat from renewable” sources. The SNP promised increased funding into wave and tidal energy while UKIP has promised to invest in renewable energy when “it can deliver electricity at competitive prices”. However, UKIP did say that they will end subsidies for wind turbines.
In only one policy there was no right-wing party supporting it and only a left-wing party supporting it and that was the Climate Change Act. However, it was only Labour and the SNP which had mentioned the Climate Change Act not the Liberal Democrats or the Green Party. I believe that this shows that there is no evidence to suggest that this was ignored in some manifestoes due to being right-wing or left-wing. This is because the Conservatives did promise to be carbon neutral by 2050, which in itself is reducing emissions which is part of the Climate Change Act. Although there may be a perception that right-wing ideology may not care as much for the climate, the data indicates that a parties position on the political spectrum does not define whether they will consider climate change as important or not.
Generally speaking, I felt that the research on this topic went well. I believe that the manifestos were clear and that I designed a good coding framework making it easier to analyse the manifestos. I believe that I was able to collect a lot of relevant data which helped to answer my research question and confirm my hypothesis. One of the things that I would do differently next time is that I would conduct an inter-coder reliability test for my coding framework to ensure that my coding was as reliable as possible.