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Environmental Leaders Are Confident About Labour's Green Agenda

Shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband said Labour would "galvanise global action" if it wins the next election. (Alamy)

5 min read

Labour remains confident about their record on environmental policy, despite recent drama over the decision to drop the £28bn price tag from its flagship Green Prosperity Plan.

In his first major speech since the change to the policy's costing, shadow environment secretary Ed Miliband struck an optimistic tone on Labour's plans at a Green Alliance event in central London. 

"In climate, the power to persuade comes from the power of example – that is what Labour will show if we win – on clean power, on fossil fuels, on financial rules, on ambition," he said. 

"If Labour wins the General Election, it will help galvanise global action and send a signal that a climate agenda laser-focused on bills, jobs, and security, can help progressives win."

Labour has argued they were no longer able to meet their spending commitments for the Green Prosperity Plan after the government "crashed the economy" with former prime minister Liz Truss's fiscal adventures in 2022. Labour is now pledging to spend an additional £4.7bn a year alongside £10bn of spending already committed to by the government, with home insulations plans taking the biggest hit. 

Holly Brazier Tope, head of politics at Green Alliance, told PoliticsHome Miliband's speech was "incredibly well received" and said campaigners and businesses would welcome the clarity of messaging from Labour following the £28bn u-turn in February – which she said was a "let down" and signalled a "diminishment of ambition".

"There has been a silence following the £28bn u-turn, and it was creating a bit of a void that Labour really did need to fill – causing a lot of uncertainty both with campaigners and NGOs, but also with business and lots of people that we've been talking to as to whether they are still 100 per cent committed," she said. 

"Ed [Miliband] did come out really strongly on some aspects of it – backing the line of how this is a completely pivotal election on climate and energy. 

However, Brazier Tope said Labour and Miliband were still yet to answer "bigger questions" on what she described as "gaps" in existing policy which were in some areas on "a worse platform than the Conservatives". 

"I think the particular gaps are on transport, are on nature, are on land use - where, actually, on the latter they are currently sitting on a worse platform than the Conservatives," she continued.

"They really need to come out strong on that, and they haven't – and Ed [Miliband] said yesterday that they are committed to the environmental nature target, but nature and biodiversity is a massive part of climate policy and I think it needs more than warm words.

"We actually need to hear how and why and what that would look like, because there is still such a big gap in policy and ambition, and how they would actually deal with it."

Adam Bell, a former government energy adviser and director of policy at Stonehaven consultancy, told PoliticsHome following Miliband's speech that what Labour were offering "green voters" was "fundamentally the same as it was post-£28bn pledge". 

Ed Miliband
Shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband said Labour would "galvanise global action" on climate change if it wins the next election. (Alamy)

Bell said the £28bn figure had become "totemic" and was ultimately "just a number almost out of the air" with "vague modelling" – adding that Labour now appeared to have a more "coherent" plan. 

"If you look at the detail of what they want to do, they do still want to create Great British Energy, they do still want to develop an industrial champion via the national wealth fund – and they want to do this while spending a lot of money on home efficiency upgrades," Bell said.

"Although the volume of money has changed, the actual offer – in terms of the structural change of the economy, and the role for democratically owned companies – is still the same. You're still going to have a much stronger role for the state in the green marketplace than you would have under the Conservatives."

Adam Berman, deputy director at Energy UK, told PoliticsHome it was "really positive to see the Labour Party maintain its commitment to the Green Prosperity Plan" in Miliband's speech and said the party was "charting the right course" after the £28bn u-turn. 

"Some of these challenges are going to be really tough, and we see huge benefits in things like the transition to clean heat or turbocharging our rollout of renewables - both onshore and offshore," Berman said. 

"It's definitely, from the perspective of industry, constructive to see consensus on issues around this, and that the Labour Party is looking to ambitious goals to be successful [at the next election]. 

"Ultimately, we do have a strong legacy of our transition to net zero. We've decarbonised about half of our emissions so far, but we recognise that the next 50 per cent of our emissions reductions is going to be really challenging, so it's absolutely right that we harness the benefits from that, but that we also make the hard decisions."

Political research director at polling company Savanta Chris Hopkins told PoliticsHome that the decision to drop the £28bn figure had not made a negative impact on the public's perception of Labour's approach to the environment. 

"The public still tend to associate Labour with ambitious climate change targets over the Conservative Party, they still trust the Labour Party over the Conservatives in terms of the environment, and they don't believe that the government has handled the issue of the environment and climate change very well," he explained. 

"All of these things really just conspire to the fact that it was a bit of an own goal at the time, but realistically it's not going to have a huge impact come the general election – just because the Conservatives are in such a mess."

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