The answer is a Green New Deal
Illustration by Tracy Worrall
The coming election will define our lifetime. The climate crisis is already here, and without serious concerted effort over the next few years, it risks the very future of humanity.
Rishi Sunak made the choice before us stark. He backtracked on the government’s climate commitments, promising to scrap various policies – including some which didn’t even exist. Sunak claims he still intends to meet the 2050 target but many experts are sceptical if this is now possible, especially with the government approving the development of the Rosebank oilfield.
Sunak claims these policies have been ditched to avoid putting extra costs onto people who cannot afford them. It is clear the Prime Minister and his advisers hope there are votes to be won by portraying the transition to net-zero as a culprit of rising costs.
But it’s not green policies that are responsible for poverty pay, food banks, and unaffordable rent – it’s Conservative governments. The party has cut public spending to the bone while enabling exploitative employers and greedy landlords, creating a society where people are struggling to get by and are acutely vulnerable to the cost of living crisis. Intensifying climate breakdown is only going to make things worse; extreme weather threatens harvests, for example, increasing food shortages and driving up food prices.
The truth is the British public supports the drive to net-zero. To prevent the Tories turning this into a wedge issue, the Labour Party must now demonstrate that we can tackle the environmental crisis and improve living standards at the same time – with the cost borne by the richest, not working-class people. A set of policies which do just that have already been developed: the Green New Deal.
Labour’s commitment to retrofit 19 million homes should be front and centre of our election campaign
Take housing, for example. Heating our homes accounts for around 16 per cent of the United Kingdom’s carbon emissions. A mass, publicly-funded programme to insulate and decarbonise our housing stock would help tackle the climate crisis, while also bringing down people’s bills. That’s why Labour’s commitment to retrofit 19 million homes should be front and centre of our election campaign.
Bringing public services that are key to our transition and to people’s quality of life back into public ownership would also be an important step. In Nottingham, our publicly-owned buses have helped lower emissions, while scoring well above the national average for punctuality and value-for-money. Now Greater Manchester, under Andy Burnham’s leadership, has also taken its buses back. The next Labour government should make it easy for all local authorities to do the same. Public ownership of public transport would improve our services, reduce costs and lead to fewer cars on the road.
I’m pleased that Labour has already committed to taking our railways back into public ownership and setting up a publicly-owned clean energy generation company, but I would like to see our party go further. In other countries, public ownership of energy has been crucial to keeping household bills down as prices soar. Bringing our energy system back under public control would also help us transition away from fossil fuels faster, and nationalising water would enable us to tackle pollution in our rivers and on our beaches. All this would generate much-needed, decent jobs across the country.
On the question of who pays for this transition, we should be clear: it is only fair that those with the deepest pockets bear the brunt. We should increase taxes on fossil fuel producers, and tax wealth and capital at the same rate as income.
At the next election, we cannot let the Conservatives portray themselves as the champions of working people when they have done profound damage to our society for the last 13 years. We have to show the electorate that we can improve people’s lives and protect our planet at the same time. The answer is a Green New Deal.
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