Labour pledges to tackle climate change in Green Plan

Labour’s Green Plan would protect onshore wind power. Here a wind farm in Whitelee, Scotland. Photo credit: Worklife Siemens via Flickr.
By Anders Lorenzen

UK’s main opposition party, Labour, has unveiled an ambitious plan to tackle climate change, and to grow and support the green economy.

With little more than a week to go before Brits go to the poll to cast their vote on who will govern Britain for the next five years, climate change and the environment seemed to have dropped down the agenda.

But Labour’s Green Plan states that tackling climate change is a huge priority.

A Labour government will start work straight away by mobilising global action to achieve a global climate treaty in Paris at the end of the year. Such a deal, which should be ambitious and include zero emissions by this mid century, would also ask that all countries adopt climate adaptation plans. Richer countries should provide support for poorer countries to help them deal with climate change.

Labour believes that UK should be a world leader in tackling climate change, and will outline policies that commit the country to a 50% cut in emissions by 2025. Crucially, they would also set a decarbonisation target in 2030, which the Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition have refused to do.

Subsidies for renewables are hated by many Conservatives, but Labour sees growing the green economy not as a burden, but as a huge opportunity for the UK. Crucially, they would reinstate investor confidence in onshore wind power which is the cheapest form of low carbon energy we have. The expansion of onshore wind power has stalled in recent years as the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, has rejected the majority of applications. Furthermore, the Conservatives want ultimately to destroy the industry by ending subsidies for onshore wind, should they win the election on May 7th. But Labour said that they will protect onshore wind and they would not place a moratorium on it.

Labour has also pledged to create a million green jobs over the next decade, and to give the Green Investment Bank borrowing powers. So far the Green Investment Bank, which was a Liberal Democrat initiative, has not had borrowing powers. This has been criticised by campaigners, Labour and the Green Party as they said it halted growth in the green economy.

To create a more diverse energy market Labour say that they will support community owned energy. It would make sure that regulations do not impede implementation of community energy projects, and they would create new green bonds tailored for individual and community investment.

But some environmentalists will be sceptical because Labour also supports an increase in the share of nuclear energy, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and the development of clean coal. They would also be concerned that Labour has not come out more strongly against the development of shale gas. Labour does not want to ban this outright, but would set up robust environmental regulations and would not throw tax advantages at it, which has been the case with the Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition.

The Green Plan is an attempt to reach out to environmentalists who have switched or are considering switching to the Green Party, with a message that Labour offers a strong commitment to tackling climate change and kickstarting investor confidence in the green economy.

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