For longer than I’ve been alive we’ve had robust evidence and compelling warnings on the need to act on climate change. Yet in those nearly 30 years, we’ve seen widespread inaction.
Too often, the discussion on climate change has pitted jobs and the environment against each other. Far from simply protecting working people’s livelihoods, the inaction aided by this false dichotomy has benefited those with vested interests in keeping things as they are. It has empowered those profiting from the destruction of our natural world, while the gap between them and the rest of us continues to widen.
But the narrative that taking the action necessary on climate change would put jobs and living standards in danger is not a given, even if it has been so prevalent until now.
Growing up in, and now representing, a post-industrial area, I speak to people every week who are worried about the price of their energy bills, about job security, about food prices, about transport costs. These concerns are at the heart of Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution. Because the fight against inequality and the fight to avoid climate destruction are the same fight.
We need transformational change to meet the scale of the challenge before us, and fast. The drivers of climate destruction are structural and so must our responses be. Labour has a plan to build an economy that urgently addresses the threat posed by climate change whilst also protecting the living standards of the many. We would oversee a seven-fold increase in offshore wind, tripling solar power and more than doubling onshore wind by 2030. We would deliver free bus travel for under-25s and a mass retrofitting programme to make households energy efficient. This programme would create hundreds of thousands of well paid, unionised jobs – including 50,000 green jobs in Scotland.
In Scotland, our geography and industrial base mean we have the potential to be leading the way on renewable energy. Yet despite making progress in the rollout of renewable technologies, the associated jobs have not come at the scale they were promised. Failures from both UK and Scottish Governments have meant that some of the world leading technologies being developed in Scotland, such as in wave and tidal, are not getting the support they deserve and the huge potential we have for green jobs is being wasted.
While foreign operators continue to be subsidised by their governments, British firms who aren’t receiving the same support will struggle to compete and win contracts. Under-investment has created a competitive disadvantage in UK yards compared to elsewhere in Europe and beyond. In Scotland, we’ve seen this with the BiFab yards in Fife, where contracts for work on offshore wind turbines have gone to Spain and the United Arab Emirates. If rumours are to be believed, the latest contract for a wind farm 10 miles from the BiFab yards will be awarded to yards based in Indonesia.
We will need to do much better if we’re going to persuade energy workers and the communities they live in that the energy transition will be a just transition. This means proper commitments to funding, an industrial strategy worthy of the name, and workers at the heart of planning processes.
Only 13% of the public support fracking, yet the UK Government have been fighting campaigners to push ahead with it. Meanwhile in Scotland, after years trying to hide their support for fracking, the Scottish Government have this week extended a licence to permit fracking over a 400km square piece of land near Falkirk. If both the Scottish and UK Governments were serious about the climate emergency, they would ban fracking now. Promoting a new fossil fuel industry at a time when we need to be rapidly decarbonising is totally irresponsible.
As part of Labour’s plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, we’ve launched a national call for evidence – an online consultation and series of regional roundtables – to build up detailed, regional plans for kick starting the revolution. From Scarborough to Cornwall these roundtables have been generating strong interest and participation, highlighting the value of people powered policy making. Today, I’ll be joining Rebecca Long-Bailey and Richard Leonard in Motherwell for our first Scottish roundtable, to talk to people about their ideas and concerns on the climate.
Just as the first industrial revolution unleashed local innovation, creating jobs and opportunities, and changing the world forever, so too can a Green Industrial Revolution – this time respecting planetary boundaries and the rights of the workers who will make it happen.
Danielle Rowley is the Labour MP for Midlothian and Shadow Minister for Climate Justice and Green Jobs