Labour has pledged to spend £28 billion a year for a decade – taking the carbon out of our electricity system by 2030 – with an £8bn sovereign wealth fund and a statutory industrial council to make it happen. Done right, that could trigger the smart, green reindustrialisation of Britain.
But we need to build capacity, skills and knowhow at local and regional levels to do it, and commit a future Labour government to a binding carbon budget, using state-led investment and state ownership to promote wind, solar, wave and nuclear. Only that way can we achieve zero net carbon for the whole economy in the 2030s.
I want Labour to go further than its current commitment to an energy windfall tax. We should nationalise the energy retailers as proposed by the TUC and take a golden share in the North Sea oil and gas majors, in order to impose temporary controls on wholesale prices, not simply enriching the producers with public money.
To achieve a carbon free electricity system we need to nationalise the National Grid, and reconfigure it as a network that takes renewable-generated electricity from homes, small solar sites, nuclear – at small scale and large – and a renewed onshore wind sector.
At the same time we’ll need more state investment in flood defences, water conservation, and fire and rescue services to cope with the extreme weather events associated with climate change.
I support the proposal for a fossil-fuel non-proliferation treaty, moving the emphasis of transition plans away from sole reliance on market mechanisms and towards legally binding commitments. Only this will ensure justice on a global scale – because there is no market solution to the climate crisis. And the transition has to have social justice built into it unconditionally. We need to turn the “just transition” from a phrase to a reality.
The first pre-requisite for all this is money: borrowing to invest, taxing the rich, stopping up the loopholes, and taxing wealth – not just incomes. The second is skills – we’ll need massive investment to train the workers who will build this new economy, and I want to see that money classed as investment by the Treasury, enabling the government to borrow to make it happen.
Only a Labour-led government can address that challenge at all levels – from investment, to skills and innovation, through to the redesign of our towns and cities around green transport and energy infrastructures – and by launching local campaigns to maintain jobs and investment as carbon-heavy industries have to change.
Only a Labour government, with trade unions as recognised social partners, will look after the workforces and communities facing the biggest upheaval – across the whole UK.
Got a question? Ask it here.