Alan Whitehead MP: Labour’s cross-governmental green industrial revolution will tackle climate change and deliver social justice

Posted On: 
23rd September 2019

Labour have been working flat out on a policy response to the emergency which seeks to match what the science is telling us, writes Alan Whitehead MP

UK students taking part in a strike for the climate crisis in Westminster, London (2019)
Credit: 
PA

Parliament declared a climate emergency on 1 May this year. The motion calls to ensure that the UK economy is ‘net zero before 2050’, and for urgent work to be undertaken on environmental restoration and progress towards a ‘circular waste’ economy.

In the Amazon, Iceland and the UK we can see the climate emergency unfolding. This has been expertly underlined by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which published detailed work indicating that the world has as few as twelve years to get the mounting levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reversed and on a secure downward course, ensuring that global temperatures rise at or less than 1.5°C before 2050.

The 12-year estimate, made by serious experts based on the latest science, shows how quickly the world will be overwhelmed by far higher temperature changes. Catastrophic outcomes include sea level rise, species extinction, increasing frequency of crop failures and large parts of the world effectively becoming uninhabitable.

At the last Labour Conference Jeremy Corbyn called for the UK climate change target to be increased from an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases to a ‘net zero’ allowance of emissions before 2050. This has now been placed into UK law with the amendment of the target in the Climate Change Act.

Labour have been working flat out on a policy response to the emergency which seeks to match what the science is telling us is the imperative for a low carbon economy of the future, with socially just political propositions that create jobs and people can get behind, and the pan-departmental changes we need to make across the economy. And it is important that these measures are across departments – that governance becomes wholly ‘low carbon’ and does not confine measures to ‘niches’ in some areas, while ‘business as usual’ goes on in government generally.

Huge progress has been made and Labour are finalising a wide ranging Green Industrial Revolution.

A Labour government will make the energy economy almost wholly renewable and low carbon by 2030. Huge strides will be made to green our energy generation involving a huge deployment of onshore and offshore wind, tide and solar – including in schools to reduce the amount of energy they need to buy.

On the flip side of that coin a Labour government will reduce demand for energy by making homes universally fully energy efficient by the early 2030s, involving local government and other bodies to drive down energy bills and put an end to fuel poverty.

We will deliver progressive changes in land use practices. That involves farming certainly, but also projects such as massive reafforestation across the country – perhaps two and a half billion trees planted over the next two decades to boost our biodiversity and capture and store carbon as they grow.

A Labour government will help industries such a steel, chemicals and cement to develop their manufacturing on a far lower carbon basis. We will decarbonise our transport rapidly shifting towards walking, cycling, increasing public transport and electric vehicles as well as low carbon haulage and logistics fleets in the next decade.

These are a few of the headline measures that government needs to legislate for, fund and support over the next twelve years. That brief list already involves Treasury, BEIS, DEFRA, Housing and Local Government, Department of Transport, Education and others.

These measures will put the UK foremost among nations battling to end climate change, ready for when the next international climate summit is held in the UK. Only a Labour government will drive this agenda with the urgency it deserves and stand up on the international stage to those who would frustrate progress.
 

Alan Whitehead is Labour MP for Southampton, Test and shadow energy and climate change minister