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Shadow Chancellor calls for “emergency measures” on climate as Labour proposes £30bn green recovery

The Labour Party today launched its Green Economic Recovery, in which it accused the Government of a “lack of ambition” on the climate and ecological emergency.

Labour called for a green recovery from the Covid-19 crisis which it says could support more than 1 million jobs in the next decade.

In a 35-page report, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and Oxford East MP, Anneliese Dodds, and Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the former Labour leader Ed Miliband, urge the government to take “emergency measures” which could help to support 400,000 green jobs in the next 18 months.

The report argues that a jobs-rich green recovery is needed, with an estimated one million job losses due to the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It states that immediate government investment could “secure up to 400,000 good, green, additional jobs in the near term.”

It also calls on the government to retrain workers in order to “equip them with the skills needed to deploy the green technologies of the future.” The third course of action according to the report is for the government to “rebuild business” by forging a “stronger social contract between Government and businesses to tackle the climate crisis and ecological deterioration.”

In the House of Commons, the Shadow Chancellor criticised the government’s “lack of ambition” on a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Dodds compared the UK government’s £5bn green stimulus plans to new plans set out by France and Germany, which pledge £27bn and £36bn respectively.

Dodds asked: “Where is this government’s ambition for a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis, and where is the replacement for the Green Investment Bank that the Conservatives sold off?”

The GIB was sold off in 2017, to the widespread criticism of not only green campaigners but the National Audit Office, which questioned the value for money of the sale, under which the private bank, Macquarie, had “no legal obligation” to continue with “its green objectives and be an ‘enduring institution’ for years to come.”

Criticising the government’s lack of investment in technologies and sectors such as hydrogen, carbon-capture, and low-carbon transport, Labour warned: “We cannot afford for the pandemic to become another excuse for the abandonment of vital action to tackle the climate crisis. Labour is clear that Government must act now to put in place the building blocks for a decarbonised economy.”

In addition, Dodds and Miliband attacked the government for “not offering the leadership expected of a country that will host next year’s crucial COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference.”

The report was informed by a consultation carried out over the summer which received nearly 2,000 responses from businesses, trade unions, think-tanks, NGOs and Labour Party members.

The four principles of a green economic recovery, according to the report, should be:

  1. Sufficient action to meet the scale of “the climate challenge”.
  2. A recovery based on “decent work” with jobs that “decently paid” and “provide job security and decent terms and conditions.”
  3. A “just transition for a fairer, more sustainable and dynamic economy” which focuses on “future-facing businesses” and “promoting health and wellbeing as well as economic growth.”
  4. Change at “system, not just sector, level.” Green investment must come with “extensive regulatory and institutional change,” the report says.

One element of the report criticised by green campaigners is contained in point three; many green economists and politicians argue that sufficient measures to tackle the climate and ecological emergency must move beyond the notion of economic growth as a goal.

The Oxford economist Kate Raworth, and author of Doughnut Economics, has argued that modern world economies need to grow “whether or not they make us thrive,” and that this needs to be flipped so that we have “economies that make us thrive whether or not they grow.”

In its conclusion, the report lambasts the “yawning gap” between rhetoric and action: “The Government’s lack of ambition is not only disastrous for tackling the long-term climate emergency, but also does not meet the scale of the current jobs and unemployment crisis.”

It adds, “If the UK embraces the transformative potential of a Green Industrial Revolution, we can rebuild our industries to create a more prosperous economy, a fairer society, and tackle the climate crisis. We owe it to ourselves, to the rest of the world, and to future generations to get this right.”

Labour’s announcement comes a day after the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said that large companies and financial institutions will be required to disclose climate risk reports by 2025 as part of the Government’s strategy to make the UK a net zero carbon-producing country by 2050.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been contacted for comment.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Max Spokes

Max (he/him) is Environment News Editor at The Oxford Blue for Michaelmas 2020. He is in his second year studying History and Politics at Balliol.