Labour needs more than a few warm words on the environment, energy security and climate change

June 18, 2013 12:09 pm

It seems that with the announcements of their intention to end universality in social security and accept the Coalition’s spending envelopes, Labour are gradually beginning to articulate what the Labour Party’s 2015 manifesto will look like.

While much has been said on social security, general economic direction and housing shortages; there has been little said on the environment, energy security and climate change. Other than a few warm words from Mary Creagh MP in LabourList’s ‘One Nation Labour: Debating the Future’ pamphlet, the Labour Party have said very little on this incredibly important topic.

The idea of a genuinely transformative environmental policy is often dismissed as unimportant when the economy is in such a parlous state requiring ‘laser-focus’ and ‘tough choices’. However, those who disregard the power of a radical green manufacturing policy in a 2015 Labour manifesto ignore the fact that such radical policies could hold the greatest solution to our economic woes.

Much like our economy shows no signs of recovery under an agenda of austerity, the planet shows no signs of a long-term cool down in the absence of a radical preventative and sustainable alternative.

Of course, the irony in all this is that countries that have invested in large scale green infrastructure projects have weathered the economic downturn better than we have. Furthermore, they’re future proofing their energy security from increasingly volatile world energy markets; investing in green growth and highly skilled green jobs. The Coalition are not.

Economically speaking, radical investment in the green economy makes sense. It is estimated to be worth around £122bn to the UK and currently accounts for around 8% of GDP. To put that in perspective, that’s a greater share of GDP than telecoms, aerospace or car manufacturing. The Coalition likes to visit car factories for photo opportunities, but when did you last see any of the front bench at a wind turbine manufacturer?

The CBI have said that “over a third of the UK’s economic growth in 2011-12 is likely to have come from green business” so why aren’t Labour putting two and two together? If green business is such a rich seam of income to the economy, why isn’t Labour prioritising it as a source of revenue with radical investment? It’s win-win: the economy will recover faster and the UK will become cleaner and greener.

Fundamentally, we must re-prioritise the issue of sustainability in our policy agenda. We face higher cereal prices because of failing crops that in turn leads to a rising cost of living. We’re enduring longer, colder winters that not only effect our natural environment but our food prices and our sense of wellbeing.

In addition to this, we have coal-fired power stations and nuclear power stations going offline and the Government – many of whose members despise state subsidies – are pinning all their hopes on new nuclear power which requires astronomical state subsidies!

In the next year or so, Labour should be articulating ambitious plans to protect our environment, halt the effects of climate change and diversify our energy sources. We should be engaging our world class Universities in researching and developing underused forms of renewable energy such as tidal and geothermal as well as ensuring continuous investment in wind and solar power.

It is evident that the Coalition’s environmental agenda is in tatters. Now is the time for Labour to present a radical environmental agenda to boost jobs and growth; ensure our future energy security and put sustainability at the heart of everything we do.

  • AlanGiles

    The Green economy has a great deal of potential, and the possibilities are endless and exciting, but sadly, it doesn’t really fit the modern idea in politics where you need an immediate “solution”, or at least the appearance of one.

    The main parties are constrained by their need to win the next election and will always have one eye firmly on the polls and popular opinion, and, certainly at the moment, environmental issues come quite low down on the list of priorities, for large swathes of the public, so of course, the “big two” (three?) will pay lip service, but do little else.

    It is only, sadly, when there is some natural disaster the public start to think of the environment and it is only when, as in 1989’s European elections, Green politics became more prominent that the main political parties pretend an interest – the reason for Mrs Thatcher’s temporary conversion in 1989 was more to do with the Ecology Party, as it then was doing well in the UK, than it was conviction.

    But I like this article.

    AG 18/6/13 1514BST

  • Quiet_Sceptic

    Tom Greatrex made some announcement about Labour committing to a target to decarbonise the UK’s electricity supply by 2030 so there’s evidently some plans in progress.

    Delivering it will be another matter, I don’t think many in politics actually appreciate the enormity of achieving that goal and enormity really doesn’t do justice to the scale of project we are talking about.

    Decarbonising, what say 30-40GW of existing fossil fired generating plant, probably having to rebuild a significant proportion of it in the process, replacing 8GW of life-expired nuclear plant and probably building more, more renewables is a given.
    The scale of what we’re talking about is huge yet with just 17 years we’ve barely started and the key technologies we’ll need – new nuclear and large scale CCS are still in the planning stages.

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