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Starmer calls for Green New Deal as green jobs plummet by 75,000

Labour demands Green New Deal to tackle the climate crisis after figures show 75,000 green energy jobs lost since 2014.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has slammed the Conservatives for overseeing a 75,000 fall in green jobs and called for a Green New Deal, as pressure ratchets up on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to back up his words with greater investment on the climate crisis.

Almost 34,000 jobs in green energy and 41,000 jobs in the wider supply chain have disappeared between 2014 and 2019, Labour says, citing figures from the Office for National Statistics.

It comes as Johnson hosts the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow in November, viewed as global crunch talks for reversing global heating.

“Tackling the climate crisis must be at the heart of everything we do. We are at a critical moment. In less than 100 days, COP26 will be over and our chance to keep the planet’s warming below 1.5 degrees will have either been grasped or abandoned,” Starmer said.

“Nobody here in the UK can afford for this issue to be yet another example of Boris Johnson bluster. We need real action, now,” he said.

Starmer added: “It is time for a Green New Deal.”

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The Labour leader’s words echo calls from John Kerry, US President Joe Biden’s special envoy for climate, for COP26 to stimulate global change.

“COP26 in Glasgow [is] a pivotal moment for the world to come together to meet and master the climate challenge,” Kerry told the Guardian. “In little more than 100 days, we can save the next hundred years.”

The UK government has promised to boost the number of green jobs as part of their ‘Ten Point Plan’ to deliver a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ in the UK. That includes a £12 billion investment to support up to 250,000 green jobs. A Green Jobs Taskforce was set up in November 2020 to work on creating the new roles.

Announcing the plan, Johnson said: “We long ago proved that green and growth can go hand-in-hand. So let us meet the most enduring threat to our planet with one of the most innovative and ambitious programmes of job-creation we have known.”

Johnson was criticised strongly for flying the 250 miles from London to Cornwall for June’s G7 summit via a private jet in what many saw as a truer insight into the prime minister’s green credentials.

Labour says the £12 billion green jobs fund is inadequate and is calling for £30 billion in planned investment to be brought forward to support up to 400,000 jobs in manufacturing and low-carbon industries.

Starmer’s calls for a Green New Deal mark a shift in rhetoric and the resurgence of a plan that featured in former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s 2019 election manifesto.

Starmer faced pressure last year from Labour’s left flank after 21 MPs – including Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott – wrote to the leader urging him not to ditch their climate targets.

Starmer added: “The UK must rise to this moment and lead by example. That means rapid action to create good, green jobs across the country. And it means a proper strategy to buy, make and sell more in Britain, to create good, unionised jobs in clean energy and through supply chains.”

He said that Labour in 2010 promised to generate 70,000 jobs in offshore wind but the Conservatives – in power since May 2010 – have created only 7,200 in the sector, while jobs in other green energy areas have regressed.

Labour’s calls for a Green New Deal follow concerns the UK’s poorest communities will shoulder the worst impacts of extreme heat and weather.

“It is shameful that, as industrialised nations, we have waited until our own streets are flooded, our own houses burnt down, to take the climate crisis seriously,” Steve Trent, chief executive of the Environmental Justice Foundation, told The Big Issue.

He added: “But if we put in place ambitious, effective and equitable policies today, we still have a chance for a just, sustainable world.”

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