Ed Miliband chaired the parliamentary launch of Labour for a Green New Deal this afternoon, which saw a number of Labour frontbenchers pledge support for the campaign backed by Momentum.
The former Labour leader opened the event with a short speech emphasising the importance of Labour values in tackling climate change and of taking on the environmental crisis and the inequality crisis together, along the lines of his comment piece for LabourList today. Miliband also raised the vital role of a ‘just transition’ and how a green new deal is “fundamental to uniting the country after Brexit”.
Clare Hymer, co-founder of Labour for a Green New Deal, spoke next. She talked about the success of the US campaign for a ‘GND’ led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is highly admired by the Labour left, and how it inspired the movement in the UK. Hymer also emphasised that the campaign supports Universal Basic Services, creating green unionised jobs, expanding democratic control of industries and a focus on the Global South.
Lauren Townsend, a councillor in Milton Keynes and spokesperson for Labour GND, highlighted the need to build coalitions across towns and cities and the impressive events run by Labour’s community organising unit and Rebecca Long-Bailey.
Danielle Rowley, recently appointed as the first shadow minister for climate justice and green jobs, delivered a speech centred on taking class into account. She explained that she came from a working class, post-industrial area and that local people’s priorities include energy bills and transport costs, which must be addressed. The Scottish MP promised to promote a broad range of voices and often “missed out” minority groups in her new role.
Clive Lewis discussed the way that a ‘green new deal’ should apply to “everything from accounting to defence”, such as reforming “accountancy practises that sign off accounts even if companies are pumping out carbon emissions”. He also mentioned the dangers of ethno-nationalism and the need to teach people skills – “not just working on an allotment, but developing critical faculties and being able to see through fake news”.
The shadow Treasury team member told the meeting: “The next Labour government has to cross a thorny bridge: are we going to have a climate crisis or borrow on an unprecedented level to ensure we are saving the planet?”. He said: “We have to get out of mindset of tinkering at the margins,” adding that “radical system change” is needed “to put us on sustainable footing”.
A series of very short speeches followed. Liam Byrne, currently running for metro mayor, talked about the West Midlands being at the heart of the first industrial revolution and at the forefront of the green industrial revolution too, i.e. “the opportunity to reach back into the past to build a better future”. Wes Streeting said Labour must “strike a balance between scaring people into action and shocking them into action”. Alex Sobel argued that our economy should be measured against carbon emissions rather than just GDP.
Closing the launch, Ed Miliband said the climate crisis would soon be “contested territory” for political parties. “The Tories are not stupid,” he said, “they recognise that this is where a growing section of the electorate are”.
Although it was not clear whether all speakers supported Labour for a Green New Deal’s ambitious 2030 net-zero carbon emissions target, as opposed to Labour’s current 2050 target, none of the contributors – who came from across the party – voiced criticism of the campaign.
The launch was attended by many Labour MPs including Anneliese Dodds, Stephen Timms, Anna McMorrin, Liam Byrne, Luke Pollard, Sandy Martin, Thangam Debbonaire, Lucy Powell, Steve McCabe, Gordon Marsden, Alex Sobel and Wes Streeting. Activists such as a group of climate justice school strikers and Momentum national coordinator Laura Parker were also present.