In the cool of September it may feel like a distant memory, but this summer’s deadly heat waves, forest fires and unbearable levels of pollution in our cities brought home once and for all the reality of the environmental crisis, and above all climate change.
If we continue on our current path, the UK is predicted to face a trebling of heat deaths by 2050.
The injustice of climate change is that its impacts are felt most acutely by working people. We understand that as with libraries, it is working people that benefit most when our common spaces flourish. It is also working people that are hit first when the air in our inner cities is polluted, or when flooding pushes up the price of food.
It cannot be right that the few who are profiting from climate change are shifting the consequences onto the many.
Climate change cannot, and will not, be tackled by relying on the actions of individuals or markets, however well intentioned. In the past, the role of government has been limited to adjusting price signals, with the hope that this will change the behaviour of consumers and business. It’s now clear that this isn’t working.
Climate change is an existential risk, and it needs radical and structural change to deal with it.
The UK has committed to reducing its emissions by 80% by 2050. Unsurprisingly, the Conservative government is not up to this job. They have failed to invest in our public transport, cut subsidies for renewable energy, created barriers to onshore wind and expanded fracking.
I know that if we are to meet the Paris Agreement and ensure a healthy environment that allows the economy and communities to flourish, the UK needs to go much further. This is why I was proud today to announce Labour’s plans to introduce a target for net zero emissions before 2050.
To put us on course to meet that target, Labour will ensure that 60% of the UK’s energy comes from low-carbon or renewable sources within twelve years of coming to power, and will invest in a publicly owned, flexible energy network capable of supporting a transition to decentralised renewable energy.
We have been working with an independent team of energy professionals and engineers whose early findings suggest that to meet our 2030 target, we will need something on the order of a seven-fold increase in offshore wind by 2030, a doubling of onshore wind and a tripling of solar power. That’s enough to power over 19million homes, and would be combined with a home insulation programme to cut energy demand and eliminate fuel poverty.
I look forward to working with colleagues over the coming months to set out how we can turn this radical vision into reality. Crucially, this transition won’t leave any workers behind. Our transition to net zero emissions will involve working closely with energy unions to ensure that we tackle climate change in a way that delivers good jobs.
The potential benefits of transitioning to a sustainable economy are enormous and we want to make sure these are shared by everyone.
The Labour movement has a long tradition of environmental protection, from the establishment of the national parks after the Second World War, through to the pioneering Climate Change Act. And it is a Labour government that is ready to step up today to reclaim our future and protect our planet.
Rebecca Long-Bailey is the Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary and Labour MP for Salford and Eccles