The Labour Party has become the first major political party to back the Green New Deal after delegates at its party conference in Brighton voted for a commitment to a net zero carbon date of 2030. The Conservatives have pledged to do so by 2050 and the Liberal Democrats by 2045.
The conference decision represents a significant victory for the Labour for a Green New Deal lobby group, which has been inspired by the success of the Sunrise Movement and the Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the US, the recent wave of climate strikes and the rising support for groups like Extinction Rebellion, especially amongst young people.
Conference delegates passed a motion to decarbonise Britain by 2030 in order to tackle the climate crisis and reverse a potential environmental disaster. There were some concerns, with the GMB union saying that 2030 was too early, with “no credible plan for achieving zero carbon by that date” and the risk of job losses. However, delegates decided that a 2030 target was needed along with a massive programme of investment in new, green-tech industries creating well-paid and unionised jobs.
Elsewhere at the conference, former Labour leader Ed Miliband said that Labour needed a “wartime” mobilisation on the climate emergency in the next decade. The former secretary of state for energy and climate change praised Labour activists for their Green New Deal campaign and said that the party should have a radical green agenda and push further than the Green party. Calling for the issue to be prominent in any future general election campaign, Miliband said: “John McDonnell I think will be the first green chancellor we’ve ever had. Trust me on this we’ve got to make it an economic and social justice issue.”
Labour has already backed a ‘green industrial revolution programme’, led by shadow secretary for business, energy and industrial strategy, Rebecca Long-Bailey, with a number of planned billion-pound investments, including a major shift to electric cars. This week the party also announced plans for dozens of new state-owned offshore windfarms, at a cost of £83bn in public and private money. The conference decision, however, commits the party – and potentially the nation – to adopting the most ambitious zero carbon target of any country on the planet.
The decision has already been attacked, with Matthew Knight, head of business development at Siemens and a member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s energy panel, saying that the 2030 target belonged “in the realm of fantasy”, when he spoke at an IET fringe meeting immediately following the vote.
Knight’s view wasn’t shared by many at the meeting, who instead saw Labour’s decision as an opportunity for engineers in particular to take a leadership role and the industry to use the ambitious proposal to attract more young people to work in the sector in worthwhile and well paid green-tech jobs.