Labour is the real party of the environment

This is the first general election I can vote in. The issue most important to me is the climate emergency and I will be voting for Labour. This seems surprising to some people, as someone who cares about the environment should vote Green, right? This too is what I assumed, and up until recently, I was actually a Green Party member, having voted Green in the EU elections earlier this year. The problem was while I supported Jeremy Corbyn and most of Labour’s policies, their 2017 manifesto lacked any clear environmental targets. It mentioned needing a sharp decline in natural gas use after 2030, instead of working to remove all fossil fuels as fast as possible. There were no figures given for how much they would invest in clean and renewable energy, and they even suggested protecting the offshore oil and gas industry.

This year’s manifesto is surprising in its ambition. The new manifesto “aims to achieve the substantial majority of our emissions reductions by 2030”. This, at first, may seem like a way to appear to have a 2030 target (the same as the Green Party) while using vague terms like “substantial majority” to protect themselves. However, Corbyn is also proposing a £250 billion “green transformation fund” that would be used for renewable energy, clean infrastructure, environmental restoration, and to help fossil fuel industry workers transition to jobs in low carbon industries. Environmental policy no longer feels like an afterthought here, and, in fact, is the first issue discussed. There’s also the fact many of Labour’s policies will indirectly reduce carbon emissions – improving public transport and nationalising the rail network, improving the energy efficiency of homes, and a four-day work week. 

The Green Party, of course, share many of these environmental goals, and very similar social policies. However, they have unfortunately agreed to the “unite to remain” agreement with the Lib Dems, whose 2045 target fails to take the climate crisis seriously. The agreement, which sees each party not standing in some areas to combine the remain vote, risks a Tory majority in marginal constituencies. This is because it appears the strategy of the two parties seems to be to call Labour “not a remain party” despite supporting a second referendum like the Greens, therefore misleading remain Labour voters, and dividing the anti-Conservative vote.

Labour have realised the need to take the climate emergency seriously, and their new manifesto reflects this. Corbyn’s vision for a socialist Green New Deal would improve the lives of millions and protect workers in a transition to a net zero future. The choice in this election is more damaging policies under the leadership of Boris Johnson, or a Labour government that works for people and the planet. I know which one I’ll choose.

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Henry Webb

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October 2021
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