A radical target to commit the UK to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 has been approved by Labour’s conference.
The policy was overwhelmingly carried after Unite the union joined shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey and grassroots Momentum activists to support the accelerated target.
The GMB union had fiercely opposed setting the accelerated Green New Deal target, warning that without a credible plan to adapt heavy industry it could lead to widespread job losses.
Previous Labour policy, which was passed into law by Theresa May earlier this year, called for net zero emissions by 2050.
But many environmentalists think a much faster approach is needed, with scientists warning that urgent action is needed to save the planet from overheating beyond repair.
The new motion states that in power Labour will “in collaboration with the trade unions and scientific community work towards a path to net zero carbon emissions by 2030”.
A party spokesman: “Labour now has the most ambitious net zero plans in the world.”
The issue of a target has deeply divided delegates in policy meetings at the conference in Brighton, with two long sessions ending in stalemate.
An original plan for ‘zero’ emissions rather than ‘net zero’ has been watered down, and officials pointed out the key phrase was the party would ‘work towards’ the target. It was not a “hard” commitment, one insider said.
But the motion is still significant and was passed overwhelmingly on the conference floor, with the vast majority of CLP delegates voting for it as well as Unite, CWU, ASLEF, Bakers Union, TSSA and FBU. Only the GMB union opposed.
Long-Bailey said: “The importance of the 2030 date is because the panel on international climate change have said we have got 11 years to act... We’ve got to act faster, and we’ve got to push people to do that.”
But GMB general secretary Tim Roache said the 2030 target was “utterly unachievable”, lacked credibility and threatened communities that relied on jobs in energy intensive industries.
Momentum chief Laura Parker said: “We’re delighted that the Momentum-backed Green New Deal has been endorsed by Labour.
“Our party has united around a bold, socialist Green New Deal that will create tens of thousands of good, green jobs across the country, usher in a new era of public luxury for all and welcome climate refugees who have been forced from their homes.”
John McDonnell said earlier this summer that he was sympathetic to demands for a quicker target date but suggested his advice was it was not practicable.
“I want to aim for 2030 if I can, of course, but at the moment all the advice that we’re getting is that that isn’t realistic,” he had told the FT in June. “So we’ve got to test that and look at the range of policies we need to enable that to happen.”