Labour’s pledges can help people and planet

The party’s commitment to make all new homes zero-carbon within three years is both radical and needed, writes KEN LIVINGSTONE.

LAST week, Labour announced ground-breaking plans to make all new homes zero-carbon within three years.

This could save people living in new-builds £200 a year in energy bills, and is just one of a series of progressive and far-reaching announcements from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour during this election campaign that will both tackle the climate emergency and improve people’s living standards.

As Corbyn put it himself: “The next Labour government will usher in a green industrial revolution to tackle climate change and create hundreds of thousands of green jobs.”

This specific, important announcement outlined how a Labour government will introduce a tough new “zero-carbon standard” on newly built homes.

Our housing currently contributes a massive 14 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, so this is very much needed.

This zero-carbon standard is achieved in two ways, and it will mean that the day-to-day running of the home won’t add additional carbon to the atmosphere.

It is made possible through better energy-efficiency standards and the use of low-carbon and renewable energy sources.

In a radical change to the current situation, it could mean that all new homes are fitted with solar panels, super-efficient insulation and triple-glazed windows and, importantly, that they are not fitted with fossil-fuel heating systems, such as gas boilers, as standard.

Developers would then have to offset any remaining emissions by other means, such as local clean-energy projects.

They are the ones making a profit here, so it is only right that they pay their way to help people and planet too.

In just one — but very clear — illustration of how the Tories have failed when it comes to taking effective measures to tackle the climate crisis, in fact an original zero-carbon homes standard, set out in 2006 by the last Labour government, was due to come into force in 2016.

This was then reaffirmed with a concrete implementation plan in 2009. Yet, astonishingly, just six months before its expected implementation, and after nine years of preparation in industry, in July 2015 the Conservatives scrapped the policy.

This makes a real difference. Not only does it mean that something like a third of a million families are living in lower-spec new homes that would have been greener and cheaper to run, it also means that just 1 per cent of new homes received the highest “A” energy rating last year as hundreds of thousands of new homes are emitting more than they should.

Perhaps then it isn’t surprising that even the committee on climate change, the government’s own climate watchdog, has said in this area that “current policies are not driving the required changes” and that “policies to support low-carbon measures have been weakened or withdrawn.”

In other words, this is yet another failure from the Tories when it comes to tackling the climate emergency, and furthermore it also is damaging the living standards of so many ordinary people.

The reasons for this failure are ideological — in terms of the Tories’ slavish adherence to neoliberalism and a “private sector is always right, no matter what” mantra which has effectively outsourced policy when it comes to housebuilding to commercial housebuilders. It is also because they caved in to pressure from property developers to slash environmental standards.

As Corbyn said when launching the policy: “Homes should be safe and warm for families and not damage the environment for future generations.”

This should be common sense — but it isn’t to the hard-right, neoliberal Tories under Boris Johnson, who will always put the interests of private mega-profits and the 1 per cent ahead of the 99 per cent, people and planet.

More than any election since 1979, this election is vital for the future of our country. But is also a climate election, which is vital for the very future of the world.

The choice then is absolutely clear. This is our last chance to take action to protect future generations by electing a transformative government led by Corbyn — a failure to do so will allow the Tories to accelerate our planet’s destruction.

First published in the Morning Star.