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On climate, the Tories were all talk. Labour must walk the walk.

A clean energy transition is crucial, but other environmental issues press on. 

June 01 2024, 11.35am

Before Sunak announced this unexpected summer election, I – along with many other nerds in the climate misinformation space – thought this campaign would see an all-out war on net zero and corresponding environmental policies. While climate denial certainly hasn’t gone away, what is surprising is the dearth of meaningful commitments on climate change from the UK’s biggest parties. When most scientists predict at least 2.5C of planetary warming before 2100, half-hearted attempts at policy won’t do. We need the full monty: investment, ambition and, most importantly – delivery.

The Tories’ terrible track record on climate and recent backtracking have cleared the path for Labour to make a winning pitch: fix our waterways, impose a windfall tax on energy companies, retrofit our homes, and heavily invest in green infrastructure. This week, Labour formally introduced their big green idea – Great British Energy, a publicly owned company that would invest in clean and renewable energy. It’s one of the policies that survived Labour’s U-turn on a £28 billion per year investment. Coupled with a pledge for no new licenses for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea announced last year, Labour’s energy plan is shaping to be seriously ambitious.

While winding down fossil fuels is a necessary commitment, the new government will face a plethora of other, equally pressing issues: pollution in our rivers and seas, extreme weather events causing frequent crop disruption and damage to homes, uninsulated housing and emissions from transport. Silence on those is not optional. Voters, particularly younger ones set to inherit an increasingly bleak future, want politicians to reassure them instead of kicking the can down the road.

Scientists are clear – the primary obstacle to addressing the climate crisis is not a lack of ‘awareness’, but political determination. We possess all the solutions we need (and have done for years). The real test will be to apply them before we trigger one, or worse, multiple tipping points.

Recent Friends of the Earth analysis shows that besides the Green Party, which has been committed to environmental issues from day dot, the Lib Dems are the next most ambitious political party regarding climate, showing a strong track record on air quality and sewage. Though Labour offers a much more hopeful set of policies than the Tories overall, there’s more the party could commit to regarding insulating homes, green infrastructure and planning reform. 

The Tories were all talk. With a big Labour majority on the horizon, the party must seize the moment and walk the walk by introducing climate policy, which would set the country’s path not just for the next five years but for the next fifty.

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