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Mon, 15 April 2024

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Labour’s mission to make Britain a clean energy superpower must also create jobs

(Alamy)

3 min read

It is pretty clear from the withering letter Lord Deben, outgoing chair of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), wrote to the Prime Minister last month that he is less than content with the government’s diminishing commitment to tackle climate change effectively at home and maintaining our global leadership role on this issue.

With a change in government expected at the next election, the CCC will no doubt offer its verdict on whether the new regime is delivering. So, how would a Labour government measure up? 

One of Keir Starmer’s five national missions is to secure the highest sustained growth in the G7 and make Britain a clean energy superpower. Labour can do a lot by ensuring the clarity of policy and action avoids the flip-flops that have dogged the current government. Business doesn’t mind sensible regulation and even taxes and incentives if they are efficient and give time for businesses to adapt. But the prize for Labour will be delivering two missions as two sides of the same coin, not as conflicting priorities: jobs versus the environment trap.   

Younger generations simply won’t vote for a party that thinks it can fix the economy without fixing the environment

Much of the investment market and all of the insurance market has recognised that economic growth, the jobs of the future, and Britain as a global superpower of any kind must be founded on green technologies, meeting the United Kingdom’s immediate energy and transport needs while growing globally competitive businesses. This requires a major re-engineering of the UK’s business mix and any government needs to get on with it. Speed is of the essence for both the economy and the environment. President Joe Biden recognised that in bucketloads with his Inflation Reduction Act – even some Republican state governors are pleased as it creates local jobs in real time.  

Some of the quick fixes are no brainers. The current programmes for home insulation, replacing gas boilers and encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles are a mess and need clear sustained implementation programmes if they are to deliver affordable energy and transport, jobs and reskilled workers now in the markets of the future, and environmental benefits. A future Labour government needs to multi-task!

Politicians seem to have lost sight of the fact that a majority of the UK public don’t see the environment and jobs as mutually exclusive. Evidence from the Lords Environment and Climate Change Select Committee report on behaviour change shows that the public by and large get climate change. They desperately want government leadership to tell them what they can do “greener” which will make these actions easier and cheaper. This is true particularly for young people. Climate change and biodiversity recovery is now in the DNA of our younger generations and they simply won’t vote for a party that shows any signs of thinking it can fix the economy without fixing the environment.

I hope Keir Starmer’s reported “I hate tree huggers” was frustration at the wilder fringes of the protest movements rather than an anti-tree,  jobs versus biodiversity policy position.  Trees sequester carbon, purify air, slow down floods, nurture soils, cleanse water, reduce urban heat effect, and make us all happier while creating jobs and over £270bn of public benefits each year.

 

Baroness Young of Old Scone, Labour peer and chair of the Woodland Trust

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