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THIS week Labour published a report by a group of independent energy industry experts, academics and others.
The result is an ambitious set of 30 recommendations that crucially set out the next immediate and urgent steps that Britain needs to take to be on track to decarbonise.
The message of the report is clear — if we don’t take these next immediate steps, then it makes any future targets almost irrelevant.
The recommendations in this report could put Britain on track for a net zero-carbon energy system during the 2030s — but only if rapid progress is made early on.
Commenting on the report, shadow secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, Rebecca Long Bailey explained that this report makes a major contribution to Labour’s plans to kick-start a green industrial revolution, adding that “inaction on climate by Conservative and Lib Dem coalition governments has led to a lost decade in the race to cut emissions from our energy system.”
However, the benefits of taking these steps are not just that we would be on course to lower our emissions dramatically.
It suggests our economy could grow by £800bn by 2030, with 850,000 jobs created — the equivalent to the whole economy of the Netherlands or Turkey — creating 850,000 skilled jobs in green industries.
Upgrading our housing stock and ensuring that everyone has a properly insulated home could mean an end to fuel poverty — people having to choose between heating and eating — and physical health benefits too, including 565,000 fewer cases of asthma due to reduced damp.
Jobs and economic boosts would also come from the work to improve people’s homes and the radical growth of the industries we need to meet measures such as installing eight million heat pumps, building 7,000 off-shore wind turbines, 2,000 more on-shore wind turbines and solar panels covering an area 22,000 football pitches, tripling Britain’s current capacity.
Improved air quality means not just 6,200 respiratory-related deaths a year avoided by 2030 — overall the benefits to public health have the potential to save the NHS £400 million per year.
More than that, it would make walking, cycling, running and playing in our cities, towns and parks more enjoyable and no longer posing a threat to our lungs.
The contrast then between Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour and Boris Johnson’s Tories in this area couldn’t be starker.
Johnson himself once claimed that that being concerned with global warming was “a new stone age religion,” and perhaps the worst legacy of Johnson’s eight years as London mayor was his failure to take the action needed to reduce the lethal levels of pollution from vehicles in the city’s atmosphere.
Labour, though, is leading the way. As Jeremy Corbyn said: “Labour don’t just have the most ambitious climate targets in the world — we’re the only party turning our targets into detailed, credible plans to tackle the climate and environmental crisis.”
When it comes to having both the vision and policies needed to address these severe dangers, it is only voices from the left that can put forward the radical changes to the economy needed.
Only the left understands — from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour here to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the United States to Evo Morales and Lula in Latin America — that we need a fundamental transformation away from neoliberalism, and that it is impossible to tackle climate change without simultaneously reducing inequality, and vice versa.
After decades of neoliberalism, our economy is structurally weak and deeply unequal. Whole communities have been deindustrialised, insecure and low-paid work has soared, our infrastructure is underinvested in and crumbling, and our society’s fabric is being pulled apart by austerity.
In direct contrast to this failed approach, Labour’s green jobs revolution can improve the living standards of millions.
Additionally, as Long Bailey put it, Labour is “working with trade unions to ensure that the changes to our energy system will be planned democratically, with the interests of workers and local communities at the heart of the transition.”
In this and so many other areas — and despite a blackout on these announcements from much of the media — Labour is engaging with the concrete detail about what a progressive government can and should do.
The current Labour leadership has always been clear that it intends to transform how our economy works to ensure that it becomes the servant of improving our society.
As well as this report we have seen a series of announcements on building an industrial strategy, strengthening and expanding trade union and employment rights, plus moving us to genuinely universal public services, including the NHS.
A general election is coming — we owe it to people and planet, our children and grandchildren, to get Boris Johnson out and Jeremy Corbyn in.
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