Labour challenges government to create 400,000 new jobs in green recovery

Sienna Rodgers
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Labour’s Ed Miliband and Anneliese Dodds have challenged the UK government to ‘Build it in Britain’ and support the creation of 400,000 new jobs as part of a green economic recovery from the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Calling for a “bold and ambitious plan” as the country faces both a Covid jobs emergency and a climate emergency, the opposition party is demanding a recovery that will deliver high-skilled jobs in every area of the UK.

The vision for a drive towards a clean economy, set out by Labour ahead of the Chancellor’s planned comprehensive spending review expected later this month, would focus on the crucial UK manufacturing sector.

The job-creating initiative being proposed by the UK Labour Party would involve bringing forward planned capital investment – at least £30bn over the next 18 months – and dedicating the funds to low-carbon industries.

The rapid stimulus package would aim to recover jobs, retrain workers via an emergency training programme to equip those affected by Covid unemployment, and rebuild business with the creation of a national investment bank.

The green-conscious investment bank, a policy promoted by John McDonnell when he was Shadow Chancellor, would work similarly to those in other countries and ensure that investment always supported the path to net zero.

The Conservative government sold the UK’s green investment bank in 2017, five years after it was formed, to Australian financial group Macquarie. The move was criticised at the time by activists and MPs as “deeply regrettable”.

During Labour leader Keir Starmer’s campaign to succeed Jeremy Corbyn earlier this year, the successful candidate supported workers’ representatives sitting on the board of a national investment bank and regional branches.

Miliband, Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary, said: “We face a jobs emergency and a climate emergency. It’s time for a bold and ambitious plan to deliver hundreds of thousands of jobs which can also tackle the climate crisis.

“This is the right thing to do for so many people who are facing unemployment, the right thing to do for our economy to get a lead in the industries of the future and the right thing to do to build a better quality of life for people in our country.

“As other countries lead the way with a green recovery, Britain is hesitating. It’s time to end the dither and inaction, and start delivering now. It is what the British people deserve and what the crises we face demand.”

Labour’s proposals were developed after a consultation launched in June invited businesses, sector associations, trade unions, workers, campaign groups and the public to submit ideas for a green new deal in the wake of Covid-19.

The project on the creation of an ambitious, just recovery was led by Miliband and Dodds, and ran through the party’s national policy forum as part of an open policy-making process. It received almost 2,000 responses.

Labour for a Green New Deal, the group that successfully campaigned for the party to adopt a 2030 net-zero target, has said that 1,400 of the submissions – 70% – endorsed its proposals for a socialist Green New Deal.

The Shadow Chancellor told the online ‘Connected’ conference in September that the UK needed a “broader perspective on our environment” and that green employment is “not just about high-technology jobs in renewable energy”.

Commenting on the conclusion of the consultation today, Anneliese Dodds said: “Labour is ambitious for Britain. We can harness the opportunities for green growth if the government takes the right decisions now.

“In recent years, and particularly during this crisis, our country has fallen behind in the drive to a cleaner, greener economy. We’ve seen far more rhetoric than action – and that has cost our country jobs.

“Future generations will judge us by the choices we make today… That’s why we need coordinated action to support 400,000 jobs of the future today, not tomorrow. Now’s the time to build it in Britain.”

The consultation report puts forward a number of detailed policies, including:

  • Investing in upgrading ports and shipyards for offshore wind supply chains.
  • Expanding investment in carbon capture and storage and hydrogen to help establish new opportunities for highly-skilled workers.
  • Accelerating planned investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and ensuring the planning system better supports electric vehicle charging.
  • Bringing forward orders for electric buses to help struggling manufacturers fill their order books.
  • Introducing a National Nature Service, an employment programme to focus on nature conservation projects.
  • Expanding energy efficiency and retrofit programmes, including in social housing.
  • Ensuring that updated sector deals for sectors like automotive, steel and aerospace protect jobs and promote the shift to net zero.
  • Bringing forward flooding protection investment, prioritising areas of need across the North West, Yorkshire and the East Midlands.

The Prime Minister is considering delivering a major speech on climate change in the coming weeks, Politico has reported. There has been no sign so far of a ten-point plan promised by Boris Johnson to “build back greener”.

Labour sources have suggested to LabourList that Chancellor Rishi Sunak could be behind the delay in the release of the low-carbon industrial revolution plan that was first trailed in Johnson’s Tory conference speech.

Welcoming the new proposals, Greenpeace UK’s Rebecca Newsom said: “This is the right sort of investment in many of the right areas that is needed to create hundreds of thousands of new green jobs and put the UK on a clear path to decarbonisation.

“An initial £30bn economic recovery package funnelled into clean transport, green energy, homes, and nature restoration could help tackle the economic, climate and nature crises all at the same time.”

The policies have been warmly received by trade unions, with TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady saying: “Fast-tracking investment in green infrastructure will help to create jobs across the economy and prevent the damage of mass unemployment.

“We should waste no time getting shovels in the ground. This month’s spending review should be used to green-light spending on homes, faster broadband, better transport links and greener technology.”

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner praised Labour’s plans and contrasted them with “the rhetoric and bluster of soundbite Johnson” and said his union had worked with the party towards the green strategy.

Turner added: “While our competitor nations such as France and Germany have invested billions in projects to deliver a low-carbon economy, successive Tory governments have coughed up pennies. With the challenge now made, it’s over to you, Prime Minister.”

Think tank IPPR has also expressed approval, pointing out that the conclusions back their proposals for a national investment bank focused on climate, a retraining and skills scheme and an expanded energy efficiency and retrofit programme.

It was revealed by IPPR on Sunday that over the course of this parliament Johnson’s government has committed to investing just 12% of what is needed to meet the UK’s 2050 net zero carbon emissions target.

A Labour for a Green New Deal spokesperson welcomed the 400,000 green jobs plan but called on Labour “to be braver and go further” with policies such as a National Care Service and universal broadband.

“Labour has a democratic mandate to argue for large-scale investment, expanding public ownership and a just transition for workers. We expect the leadership to keep its promises and fight for a Green New Deal,” the campaign group said.

Energy spokesperson Miliband cast doubt on the Prime Minister’s announcement in October that pledged to power all UK homes with renewable wind power by 2030 as “Boris Johnson rarely delivers on his rhetoric”.

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