Long-Bailey: “Let’s build a movement to hit the 2030 climate target”

Sienna Rodgers

Leadership candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey is set to call for Labour to “build a broad, progressive movement” – and aim to reach its ambitious 2030 climate target while in opposition.

The Shadow Business Secretary, who led on the formation of UK Labour’s ‘green new deal’ policy in the run-up to the 2019 general election, will urge the party to “think outside the box, put aside tribalism and work with everyone” to tackle the climate crisis.

Although Labour suffered a huge defeat at the polls, Long-Bailey will make the case for pushing ahead with the party’s plans for the environment because they are “too important for the future of our planet to put on hold for five years”.

The leadership hopeful is expected to talk about activism beyond parliamentary work, such as “going community to community to build support” for Labour’s ideas and “actively supporting the climate strikers, Extinction Rebellion, anti-fracking campaigners and other movements across the world”.

Long-Bailey has already criticised the lack of prominence given by Labour to its GND plan, arguing at the start of her leadership campaign that it had been “tragically undersold” despite its potential to offer a “compelling frame” for the party’s economic programme.

At a campaign rally in Bristol on Saturday evening, she is expected to tell supporters: “I know we lost in December. And I know that if we’d won I’d be working towards that target in government right now.

“But the climate crisis is too important for the future of our planet to put on hold for five years. Our progress in tackling the climate crisis can’t be left to the whims of Boris Johnson.

“To win the next election, Labour must become the natural home of all those who want to combat the climate crisis and take on the big polluters. That means there can be no watering down of the necessary and popular 2030 target.”

On the approach that Labour should take while in opposition, the leadership candidate will assert: “We led on parliament declaring a climate emergency and we need to hold this government to account on taking action like there is one.

“But that won’t just happen across the despatch box. We’ve talked the talk on being a movement-led party in recent years but to win on climate we’re going to have to actually do it. We have a moral duty to put aside tribalism and build a broad, progressive movement to hit the 2030 target while in opposition.”

Just as she dared rivals to back specific public ownership plans earlier in the week, Long-Bailey will challenge Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy and Emily Thornberry on Saturday to match her support for five green policies:

  • Insulate every home in the UK, cutting emissions and bills
  • Invest in 9,000 additional wind turbines
  • Invest in enough solar panels to cover 22,000 football pitches
  • Build a charging network to support more than 20 million electric cars
  • Bring our energy system into democratic, public ownership

At Labour conference in September, delegates approved a policy motion committing the party to working “towards a path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2030”, which was backed by Long-Bailey and Unite the Union.

The motion was moved by the Fire Brigades Union, which supported the Labour for a Green New Deal campaign group in its drive to make Labour’s target more ambitious. The vast majority of local party delegates voted for the proposal, as did CWU, ASLEF, BFAWU and TSSA.

The large GMB trade union, which represents energy workers, had been concerned about the feasibility of the 2030 deadline, however. Its alternative policy motion – also passed by conference – did not include a specific decarbonisation date.

At the Open Labour hustings in Nottingham last weekend, Lisa Nandy – who has been nominated by GMB – argued that “when we argue about 2030 or 2050, we let Tories off the hook”. Her comment was criticised by Labour for a Green New Deal.

The LGND campaign group has revealed that it will be organising its own leadership hustings, and it plans to produce “scorecards” for each of the Labour leadership candidates to test “their commitment to delivering a green new deal”.

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