Politics

Here's what Labour’s landslide victory means for the planet and the ‘anti-green Tory agenda’

Keir Starmer must use Labour’s landslide victory to 'bury' the 'anti-green Tory agenda', environmental campaigners have urged

Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, and Ed Miliband, Shadow Climate Change and Net Zero Secretary during a visit to British Steel in Scunthorpe. Credit: Keir Starmer flickr

Keir Starmer must use Labour’s landslide victory to “bury” the “anti-green Tory agenda,” environmental campaigners have urged.

The Conservative party’s recent environmental record makes for grim reading.

Rishi Sunak diluted net zero policies, encouraged car use, politicised low-emission zones, and promised to ‘max out’ oil and gas in the North Sea.

Last night, voters dealt his party an eye-watering defeat. The electoral obliteration has many causes; beset by endless scandals, the Conservatives have failed to tackle the cost of living crisis or fix ailing public services. But it should also be read as a “powerful call” for climate action, environmental campaigners have claimed.

“Voters have resoundingly rejected [Sunak’s] climate rollbacks and elected a party with a proper plan to turbocharge cheap, clean, renewable energy – promising to slash emissions, lower bills and deliver hundreds of thousands of new green jobs,” said Greenpeace UK’s Co-Executive Director, Areeba Hamid.

“However, the Green surge and success of the Lib Dems, who stood on much bolder climate and nature pledges, shows that there is a genuine appetite from voters for much stronger green policies from the government. Keir Starmer must take note.”

What are Labour’s plans for the environment?

Labour’s environmental plans are “much stronger” than its predecessors, said Mike Childs, head of policy at Friends of the Earth.

“Let’s hope Labour’s win signals the end of a disastrous 14 years of dither, delay and retreat that defined the Conservative brand of environmentalism,” he said.

Labour has pledged to meet the international goal to cut emissions by two-thirds by 2030, decarbonise the electricity grid by 2030, mandate corporate transition plans, build floating offshore wind farms and end new fossil fuel drilling projects.

Labour had initially pledged £28 billion of green economy investment annually but scaled this commitment back earlier this year. Nonetheless, the party still plans to create 650,000 jobs through its Green Prosperity Plan, backed by £7.3bn in funding.

The Labour majority is a call for climate action said Shaun Spiers, Executive Director at Green Alliance.

“British people want a credible plan to make their lives better, and they’ve emphatically backed a party that promises to help the economy grow, create jobs in clean industries and take the climate crisis seriously,” he said.

“Voters have rejected a party which backtracked on its commitments, campaigned against its own record in government, and tried to draw dividing lines around the environment. The new government has a clear mandate from the public to invest in Britain, and to take decisive action towards a greener, fairer and more prosperous country.”

Nonetheless, Labour must “go further”, Childs added.

“Critically, the party must ensure it doesn’t rest on its laurels and remember that it has been elected on a ticket promising change,” he said. “With such a large mandate, it should feel emboldened to bring in truly progressive policies.”

In a scoring of political party manifestos carried out jointly by Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace UK ahead of the general election, the Labour Party scored 20.5 points out of 40 for their green plans. Though this was four times higher than the Conservatives’ offering, both the Green Party and Liberal Democrats scored far higher.

Both these smaller parties committed to raising billions more in taxation in order to fund areas such as improving public transport and nature restoration – as well as the NHS and other public services. Their manifestos also included schemes for home energy efficiency upgrades, the switch to electric heating and fines for sewage polluters.

Their strong showing at the polls is more proof of climate voting, campaigners said. The Greens quadrupled their parliamentary presence, securing four seats in the House of Commons and more than 1.9 million votes.

The Liberal Democrats – who have clinched a record-breaking 70 seats in parliament, up from 15 – also campaigned heavily on environmental issues like sewage pollution. Their support in the formerly Conservative-voting ‘Blue Wall’ reflected that 58% of voters in these seats want to go further and faster on green issues.

To “take leadership” on climate, the new prime minister must “take on the elites, increase taxes on the super-rich and polluting companies, and invest, invest, invest,” said Hamid.

“Invest in cheap, clean power and create new, secure green jobs for workers. Invest in warm homes, trains and buses to lower our energy bills and transport costs for good. Invest in greener farming and restoring nature so our rivers become free from sewage once more and wildlife can flourish. This is the change people voted for – it’s time for Starmer to deliver.”

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