Labour has promised to “throw everything” at green prosperity as it focuses on achieving the nation’s net zero targets and ensuring energy independence, while also actively supporting the transition towards a thriving low carbon economy.
The Green Prosperity Plan, as it has been dubbed, includes several key measures, such as ending unabated fossil-fuelled electricity generation by 2030, creating a new publicly owned energy generation firm, and investing in local councils and community energy project organisers.
“This is the race of our lifetime, and the prize is real,” said Starmer. “We live in an increasingly volatile world. The twin risks of climate change and energy security now threaten the stability of nations. So we’ve got to ground everything we do in a new insight – that clean energy is now essential for national security.
“We’re going to throw everything at this: planning reform, procurement, long-term finance, R&D, a strategic plan for skills and supply chains. A new plan for a new settlement … all pulling together for a simple, unifying priority: British power for British jobs.”
Drying up the oil
Starmer is under pressure from environmentalists and the oil industry over the scale and pace of change, and climate campaigners have criticised the party for rowing back on a pledge to invest £28bn a year in green industries.
However, Starmer made clear that Labour is committed to a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. In England, planning rules which effectively ban new onshore wind farm developments would be scrapped if Labour won the next election.
Labour has also confirmed that it would “not grant licences to explore new fields” in the North Sea. This would be a momentous shift for a sector which supports 200,000 UK jobs, including 90,000 in Scotland, according to Offshore Energies UK.
David Whitehouse, chief executive of Offshore Energies UK, said that Labour’s plans to move away from the reliance of North Sea oil and gas “would create a cliff edge” deterring investment and heightening the risk of energy shortages.
However, Starmer said that his party had “a credible plan to manage the change, protect good jobs and create good jobs. No cliff edges.”
Commenting on the plan, Friends of the Earth’s head of science, policy and research, Mike Childs said, “Labour’s rhetoric on climate change is strong and it is right to focus on the UK’s huge potential for cheap, homegrown renewables. Enabling communities to benefit from local clean power projects, lifting the ban on onshore wind and committing to develop a homegrown industry to build offshore wind turbines, will all boost green growth, create new jobs and ensure people feel ownership and reap the rewards of the shift to a clean energy system.
“A world-leading and credible climate plan also needs greater clarity on the phase out date for fossil fuel use and there can be no rowing back on the pledge to stop new oil and gas extraction. A fully funded green prosperity plan is needed, with urgent investment in a street-by-street insulation programme, alongside a swift and fair transition to renewables.”
A new energy future
One of Labour’s initiatives will be to provide more incentives for areas to take part in new clean energy projects. Under Labour’s plans, GB Energy – a new publicly-owned firm which it says will be based in Scotland – would play a key role in getting that message across.
GB Energy would oversee the return of profits from successful projects to local councils. The councils could then use that income to reduce council tax, pay for improved public services, or simply provide rebates on energy bills.
Labour says GB Energy could provide up to £600m per year to local councils to invest in green infrastructure and a further £400m annually in low-interest loans for community projects.
These community loans would be designed to ensure small projects could benefit from the expertise of GB Energy while also generating money for local areas.
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