Keir Starmer has pledged that a Labour government would “speed ahead” with its plans to invest heavily in green infrastructure across the UK economy, making climate action a central part of his economic vision for the country.
In a speech to the Labour Party conference, Starmer outlined plans to remove barriers to renewable energy development and boost investment in renewable energy, grid infrastructure, electric vehicle manufacturing, and green steel plants. He also hit back at the current government’s recent rolling back of key green policies and positioning of net zero as a costly exercise for consumers.
“When Rishi Sunak says row back on our climate mission – I say speed ahead,” Starmer said.
“Speed ahead with investment, speed ahead with half a million jobs, and speed ahead with Great British Energy – a new energy company that will harness green British power for good British jobs.”
The Labour leader said that his government would establish a new National Wealth Fund to help attract private investment in low carbon infrastructure and reiterated plans for a publicly owned energy firm, confirming that it would base the new venture in Scotland and invest up to £1 billion a year in developing domestic green energy capacity.
“Clean British energy is cheaper than foreign fossil fuels. That means cheaper bills for every family in the country. But also a chance to make us more competitive,” said Starmer. “Countries like America are using this opportunity to create manufacturing jobs the likes of which we haven’t seen for decades, and they’re not the only ones.”
“When an opportunity is there to be won, you have to take it,” he continued.
When speaking of plans to surge housebuilding, by “bulldozing” through the current planning system, he was quick to assuage concerns among environmentalists over the risk of a development free-for-all, insisting the plans “do not mean we’re tearing up the Green Belt”.
To meet these challenges, the Labour leader called for “a decade of national renewal” led by a government that “steers the ship on industrial policy.”
Starmer’s speech was described as a ”breath of fresh air” after the Conservative government’s “constant attempts to sow division and weaponise green policies,” by Greenpeace UK’s Rebecca Newsom, and welcomed by environmental groups and green businesses.
However, Newsom remained cautiously optimistic, saying, “without more content on other issues close to voters’ hearts – like clamping down on industrial fishing and plastic pollution, and taxing fossil fuel companies more – many votes could still hang in the balance.”
The plans were immediately attacked by senior Conservatives, with Party Chairman Greg Hands writing on social media platform X that Labour’s opposition to Sunak’s “pragmatic” approach to net zero would “pile needless costs on to British families”.
The speech comes a day after Climate Change and Net Zero Secretary Ed Miliband railed against the Conservatives’ “desperate and dishonest” attempt to position the net zero transition as a costly exercise for households and businesses, as he made the case in his speech for going further and faster on decarbonisation so as to bolster economic prosperity and security in the UK.
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