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Innovation is key to making Britain a clean energy superpower

3 min read

Chi Onwurah MP, shadow minister for science, research and innovation, on tapping the country’s technology sector to create a green industrial revolution

Seven years since the Paris Agreement, the government has blown hot and cold on Britain’s climate commitments and let us fall behind on boosting energy independence and winning the global race for new industries.

Businesses, investors, and consumers have lacked clear signals to drive change. Short-term sticking plaster politics and funding cycles that barely outlast a parliamentary session have left many key actors confused and undermined in their attempts to address this key challenge. All the while, families struggle with rising energy bills, and Britain’s energy independence is undermined when we should be investing in clean, homegrown energy.

The innovation of Britain's brilliant science and tech sectors have a significant role to play in helping us meet our climate change commitments and grow the economy. But it’s vital that our innovators have political backing to drive the changes needed.

Labour has made clear, through the five bold missions for government which Keir Starmer has set out, that we have the political will to drive change. This will break our country out of the cycle of sticking plaster politics, and give us the strategic, long-term approach to science, innovation, and technology.

Our mission to make Britain a clean energy superpower by 2030 means switching on Great British Energy. This will lower household bills permanently, create hundreds of thousands of high paid jobs and put the UK on course towards energy independence.

Our modern Industrial Strategy and investments through Labour’s National Wealth Fund, will put science and innovation at the heart of our plans to grow and decarbonise the economy, and make people across the UK better off. 

The UK has real strengths to offer the fight against climate change. We have a world-beating research base, and rank third– only behind the US and China – in science and technology journal articles. We have internationally renowned universities research institutes across the country, deep capital markets, and a great industrial history. 

“I believe that by being bold and ambitious we can build the green industrial economy we need and fight climate change.”

For example, the Royal Society estimates that digital technology, such as smart meters and AI, can deliver one-third of the carbon emission reductions required by 2030. We have already seen an incredible reduction in the costs of wind and solar power which, if applied to electric cars, would make them more affordable for more of my constituents. And recent evidence from the government’s own watchdog showed that Rishi Sunak's decisions to force renters to live in damp homes and delay the transition to electric vehicles will increase costs for families across Britain.

Labour will create certainty with ten-year R&D budgets to allow relationships with industry to be built, long-term partnerships to form, and lead to investment in new technology and the infrastructure that underpins it to combat climate change.

It is time to be ambitious. Technological innovation has already allowed us to make some progress toward alleviating climate change, but more is required. By ramping up to investing £28bn a year in the second half of parliament, at the latest, we can deliver energy independence for our country, cut bills, and create good jobs in our industrial heartlands.

Innovation has an essential role to play in combatting climate change and achieving net-zero. The Conservative government has failed to take advantage of it. By bringing a long-term, coherent and consistent approach to science and innovation, Labour will liberate innovation to combat climate crisis.

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