We need to tackle the climate emergency right now

It’s climate chaos with the Tories or a green new deal with Labour, writes KEN LIVINGSTONE.

This week saw new calls from the United Nations for countries to take urgent action to cut emissions to tackle the growing global climate emergency.

The UN is calling for global emission cuts of over 7 per cent a year, but last year the Britain’s carbon emissions fell by a lowly 2 per cent.

Furthermore, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said we need to cut global emissions in half by 2030 to have a chance of keeping global heating within safe limits — that means acting now and acting in an ambitious and decisive manner.

In terms of tackling climate change then, the general election couldn’t come at a more important time, and for millions of voters this will be a key issue in deciding how they cast their vote.

This year has seen the emergence of an incredible global movement calling on politicians to wake up and act, and at this election politicians need to prove they have listened.

The Tories’ record on this issue — and indeed future pledges — are frankly pathetic.

They have wasted a decade serving the interests of big polluters, while they implemented failed, ideologically driven austerity under the false mantra that the free market always knows best.

Their priorities were clearly illustrated when the Tories slashed support for renewable energy while pushing through the dangerous practice of fracking. Now, as a result of Tory failure, Britain is decades off course on vital emissions targets.

And the Conservatives have also presided over a lost decade of productivity — allowing Britain to fall behind in the green technologies.

It is clear that we need a progressive alternative that will put people and planet first, before the needs of private profit and the big polluting multinationals.

In contrast to the Tories, Labour has listened to the global movement for climate justice, and this is clearly shown in its manifesto which points out that “Labour led the UK Parliament in declaring a climate and environmental emergency,” and goes on to say that now “the next Labour government will lead the world in fighting it, with a plan to drive up living standards by transforming our economy into one low in carbon, rich in good jobs, radically fairer and more democratic.”

To this end, Labour will launch a National Transformation Fund of £400 billion. Of this, £250 billion will directly fund the transition through a Green Transformation Fund dedicated to renewable and low-carbon energy and transport, biodiversity and environmental restoration.

As Jeremy Corbyn has said, “The next Labour government will lead the world in tackling the climate and environmental emergency with a plan to create a low-carbon economy with well-paid jobs we can be proud of.”

As part of its manifesto launch, Labour has also unveiled a plan to create one million good new jobs that will not only tackle the climate emergency but will also reboot industry and end rampant and spiralling inequality. They will be well-paid, unionised jobs, and go alongside launching a 320,000 strong Climate Apprenticeship programme to enable employers to develop the skills needed to lead the world in clean technology.

This will not only help our planet but also bring new wealth and opportunities to the regions and nations that have been starved of investment, following first decimation under Thatcherism and the last 10 years of austerity.

Indeed there are so many parts of Britain that would need this real investment — even without a climate emergency. Years and years of neglect have left many communities feeling powerless and too many areas left behind.

But now there is a real chance to change this.

Labour’s manifesto starts with the line that “this election is about the crisis of living standards and the climate and environmental emergency.” It is important to understand that these are firmly linked, and that furthermore averting climate catastrophe is not only necessary, but also offers huge economic opportunities.

The global “green economy” is currently valued at $4 trillion, and is projected to grow to $9 trillion by 2030. Labour’s plans will put our companies and workers in pole position to benefit from this new economy and further help us resource public services and better society, where we deal with the growing insecurity and inequality we have seen in recent years.

This election is the last opportunity to take the vital action to head off runaway climate change, and the cost of not acting is far greater than the cost of acting.

As Rebecca Long Bailey put it this week, “The choice facing the electorate is clear. A Green Industrial Revolution with Labour or climate chaos under the Tories.”

First published in the Morning Star.