What is the “green industrial revolution”?
The Labour party’s answer to the climate emergency is to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by investing in new industries and reforms to existing practices, to generate economic opportunities, particularly in areas where old industrial jobs have vanished. The ideas behind it are similar to those of the international move for a Green New Deal, espoused by leading Democrats in the US, but draw on the UK’s specific industrial resources, skills and heritage.
What measures have been announced?
On Monday, a £3.4bn national network of electric vehicle charging points, to ensure rapid refuelling for long and short journeys. There will also be interest-free loans for electric car buyers, with the aim of electric vehicles making up two-thirds of those on UK roads by 2030. Energy generation is another key target: home insulation and solar panels will be introduced free for more than a million people in low-income and social housing. If elected, a Labour government would renationalise the electricity grid, with a national energy agency and regional agencies taking over the task of delivering energy and balancing demand, while suppliers would remain private. Labour would also ban fracking.
What other measures are likely?
Labour will announce plans to remove planning restrictions that stop onshore windfarms. A large proportion of the proposed £250bn national transformation fund will be spent on the “green industrial revolution”, in ways yet to be laid out in detail. Additional Treasury policies could include adjusting the discount rate to make investments in green measures cheaper and changes to tax. Public procurement would be reformed so that suppliers to the public sector have to meet stringent green standards. And there may be a move to bring forward the government’s current target of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, enacted by Theresa May.
What will this mean for jobs?
Labour claims the measures will create tens of thousands of new jobs around the country, and unions are broadly in favour, backing a “just transition” from high-carbon industries to a low-carbon economy that would create high-quality jobs to replace those lost in industries such as coal.
How is this being received?
There is support among party members, with Labour for a Green New Deal and Momentum backing the idea, and it seems to play well among young people in particular. Businesses seem more wary, with the CBI telling the Guardian that “renationalisation will disrupt the investment needed across water, rail and energy that all contribute to reducing emissions”.
Will Brexit have an impact?
Plans for green industry are being presented as separate to Brexit, representing a way forward that all sides of the Brexit debate can espouse, as they are targeted at new green jobs and an industrial revival. But a close relationship with Europe is viewed as essential, to collaborate on green standards and carbon accounting. The UK will host the major UN climate conference in 2020, called COP26, so Labour would seek to showcase the “green industrial revolution” on the international stage if in power next December.
What about aviation?
One key issue that must be addressed is the forecast rapid rise in emissions from aviation, and Labour has been divided over a new runway at Heathrow, in contrast to the Liberal Democrats who want a moratorium on all airport expansion. Improved and cheaper public transport is key to Labour plans: the shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, pointed to flights within the UK that are much cheaper than rail journeys as one target for action.