Climate experts have welcomed Labour’s proposals to tackle the ecological emergency – but urged Sir Keir Starmer not to back away from a full-scale Green New Deal agenda.
At its party conference in Brighton, Labour outlined plans to spend an annual £28 billion to fund a mass retrofitting programme and pledged to decarbonise steel – as well as outlining a “net zero and nature” test for every policy.
The headline pitches echoed many of Labour’s plans for a green industrial revolution set out by Jeremy Corbyn before the 2019 general election – and experts welcomed the proposals as “a good first step” to help the UK reach its climate goals.
Ed Miliband, the shadow business secretary, has been at the forefront of Labour’s climate push – and used his conference speech to promise the party would act on “climate justice and economic justice together”.
But allies of Starmer are reportedly pushing the Labour leader to demote Miliband, with sources telling The Times that he is “veering away from his brief in a strange way”.
Climate experts nonetheless welcomed the party’s commitments. Sam Alvis of the Green Alliance think-tank told The Guardian: “This is a big increase in ambition that would go a long way in getting to net zero carbon emissions and restoring nature … [it] puts pressure on chancellor Rishi Sunak to follow suit with a similar programme in the spending review.”
Rebecca Newsom, the head of politics at Greenpeace UK, also welcomed the policy, saying it was clear “that tackling the climate crisis and supporting a fair transition” was central to Labour’s agenda.
But, she warned, “big questions” remain about the “speed and nature of the transition” under a Labour government – and the party’s willingness to show “real leadership in guiding a just transition away from dirty, expensive and unreliable technologies like oil, gas and nuclear.”
Hannah Martin of youth climate movement Green New Deal Rising, which challenged Starmer on his climate commitments in Brighton, said the move “only happened because of the activism of young people”.
“While it’s a good first step towards the level of investment we need, we still have a leader of the opposition who is running away from young people and won’t talk to us about this crisis.”
She added: “We know that only a wide-reaching Green New Deal at the speed and scale required where we transform our financial systems and put power back into the hands of communities is going to work and we need leaders who have the courage to fight for it.”
Kate Hicks, of grassroots campaign group Labour for a Green New Deal, told the newspaper that the party had taken a “big step back from 2019”.
She said: “Labour should be the party of green jobs, but Starmer has ditched the policy he needs to achieve it: public ownership. Without it, we can’t wind down polluting industries at the pace that’s needed, and we can’t make sure that workers are retrained for quality, well-paid jobs.”