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The environment needs Labour's Green New Deal

CHRIS SALTMARSH explains why voters should back the party's socialist, environmental vision and why the Lib Dems, SNP and Tories' promises don't amount to much

A RECENT poll, conducted by YouGov on behalf of campaign group Green New Deal UK, has shown that 56 per cent of the public support ambitious climate targets to decarbonise by 2030 or earlier.

This means that a majority of voters are on board with the target agreed as part of Labour’s socialist Green New Deal at Labour Party Conference 2019: net-zero emissions by 2030.

The motion was proposed by the Fire Brigades Union, supported by unions including Unite and Unison and came after 126 constituency parties submitted a version of Labour for a Green New Deal’s model motion. 

Ahead of the general election, Labour has come under some pressure to row back on the policy’s ambition.

GMB circulated a briefing against the net-zero 2030 target to Labour MPs. It repeated unsubstantiated claims, also made in the media, that legislating for net-zero by 2030 means undesirable consequences including the state rationing of meat, job losses and restricted ability to fund public services. 

In reality, the framework of the Green New Deal would guarantee secure, unionised work for every worker in every transition industry and massively expand the provision of public services.

Doing so, in accordance with net-zero by 2030, is also necessary for any prospect of global justice to avoid climate apartheid where Britain goes green while leaving the rest of the world for dead. 

Labour’s Clause V meeting takes place in the second week of the general election campaign. This is where the shadow cabinet, NEC and trade unions agree the party’s manifesto.

This is a pivotal moment in determining how radical Labour’s offer is to the electorate. Members and supporters swayed by Labour’s newfound environmental credentials will be expecting the party’s Green New Deal and net-zero 2030 target to be included. 

In a separate set of polling, conducted by Opinium on behalf of ClientEarth last week, a majority of voters said that climate change would affect how they vote. Even more (63 per cent) supported the Green New Deal.

This comes as Extinction Rebellion and Youth Strikes for Climate have thrust the climate crisis to the top of the political agenda following the heat of 2018’s summer and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warning of 12 (now 11) years to address climate change.

Jeremy Corbyn, launching Labour’s election campaign in Battersea, said that “this election is our last chance to tackle the climate emergency.” 

Labour’s socialist Green New Deal is one of the keys to decisively winning this election. It allows us to win over climate-concerned voters, retains our robust class politics, and sets us up to face up to the existential crisis of our generation from power.

The popular target for net-zero emissions by 2030 sets an urgent pace for Labour’s green industrial revolution. It gives us the impetus to accelerate the socialisation of the economy necessary to deliver a just transition.

Bringing energy generation and distribution, transport, utilities, health and social care, pharmaceuticals and more into public ownership can’t come quickly enough.

By democratically running those industries by and for the many, we can ensure that they contribute to a rapid and just decarbonisation effort that spans the whole economy.

Without the 2030 net-zero target, Labour would lack the same drive to upgrade almost every home in the country by 2030. It would not have the same stimulus to invest £400 billion in “the twin crises of the climate emergency and social deprivation.” 

The polling supporting net-zero by 2030 or earlier shows that anything short of this level of ambition would risk Labour’s chances of winning this election and forming a government.

At this historic juncture, the other major parties are trying their best to talk the talk on climate justice. Only Labour can walk the walk. 

Labour for a Green New Deal co-director Adrienne Buller has incisively taken down the Tories over any claims to green credentials.

Not only is their manifesto being written by a fracking lobbyist, they have a frankly genocidal net-zero target of 2050 which would leave many in this country devastated by climate breakdown — not to mention those across the Global South for whom it would be a death sentence.

The Tories’ record in government has been slashing subsidies for renewables and privatising the Green Investment Bank. Guardian research even shows that Boris Johnson has never voted the right way on climate. 

The Liberal Democrats don’t fare much better. They have launched, to no fanfare, an underwhelming climate plan called Brighter Future.

Their own target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045 would cause similar harm to the Tories’ and is supported only by capitalist NGOs more concerned by maintaining good relations with a Tory government than actually winning climate justice.

What the Lib Dems’ plans lacks in ambition, they also lack in credibility. They have no plan to decarbonise heat and would only cover the cost of two new windows in their underfunded home insulation plans. 

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has brazenly co-opted the Green New Deal framework as a slogan for its neoliberal climate policies, described as a “fascinating muddle of contradictions” due to the party’s commitment to extracting oil and gas. 

Against this feeble competition, Labour has a momentous opportunity to assert itself as the natural party of climate justice in Britain.

That must mean including Labour’s socialist Green New Deal and the target for net-zero emissions by 2030 in the 2019 Manifesto.

Voters back it. The climate demands it. We need real change to get out of this crisis.   

Chris Saltmarsh is a co-founder of Labour for a Green New Deal.

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