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Labour Is Turning its Back on the Climate Crisis

After a year of record heatwaves, wildfires and floods, Labour's refusal to even debate the Green New Deal policies needed to respond to the climate crisis is a scandal – and damning of Keir Starmer's leadership.

Keir Starmer had previously committed to putting the Green New Deal "at the heart of everything we do." (Credit: Leon Neal / Getty Images)

After a summer of record-breaking floods, wildfires and heat waves across the planet, the news that Labour members have been denied the opportunity to debate Labour for a Green New Deal’s ‘Green Jobs Revolution’ motion to Labour’s annual conference should really come as a shock. Instead, it is simply the latest in a long line of failures by this party leadership to offer the radicalism and unity promised by Keir Starmer during his campaign.

Making a mockery of party democracy, the motion (submitted by 21 CLPs) was blocked by the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) “as it refers to more than one subject area.” Labour for a Green New Deal’s 2019 conference motion set a precedent as it was passed by over 120 CLPs, composited during conference, and then voted for overwhelmingly by delegates. It defined Labour’s policy as understanding the joined-up approach needed for both climate crisis and economic injustice. As Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP says: “Any party that refuses to accept that addressing climate breakdown will require a broad policy response isn’t taking it seriously.”

The ‘Green Jobs Revolution Motion’ develops Labour’s existing Green New Deal policy for a fast-evolving ecological, social, economic and political context. Its refined focus commits Labour to deliver millions of green jobs through massive investment in green technologies, publicly-owned utilities, zero-carbon transport and a National Care Service, reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy. 

This vision is popular and it’s essential if Labour are to remain credible on climate justice ahead of the next general election. The Tory government rhetorically steals the language of Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘green industrial revolution’ while launching headfirst into oil exploration projects and coal mines. The Labour leadership has the opportunity to effortlessly stand head and shoulders above the Tories with this policy agenda readily at their disposal. But rather than building on the world-leading climate policies of the 2019 manifesto, Keir Starmer and David Evans have decided to retreat inwards, waging internal factional warfare while offering nothing to voters.

The Green New Deal put forward in our motion is far greater than the sum of its parts. It is no crudely compiled shopping list of demands, as our detractors might suggest. It is a holistic and coherent plan for the green economy we need. That means leaving no stone unturned amid an inevitably tumultuous period of transformation.

It is right that we call to expand public ownership, to strip the profit motive out of the economy and give the state the greatest possible chance of planning a just transition. It is right that we prioritise workers’ rights and the empowerment of trade unions who should lead a Green New Deal. It is right that we refuse to decarbonise only within the borders of our own nation, but look internationally with solidarity too. That’s why we support debt cancellation, technology transfers and reparations for poorer countries.

Keir Starmer himself pledged his support for a transformative Green New Deal when he ran for leader of the party. He even promised to “put the Green New Deal at the heart of everything we do.” But Labour’s Conference Arrangements Committee must have missed the memo.

The ‘Green Jobs Revolution’ motion has generated unified support across the labour and climate movement with 21 CLPs (including Starmer’s own) submitting it to Conference, plus backing from trade unions and grassroots climate campaigns. It was written with a wide ranging input from a diverse array of organisations. While Starmer’s leadership has haemorrhaged hundreds of thousands of members, we sought to generate a point of unity for a divided party. This has, unfortunately and predictably, been met with yet another attempt to alienate ordinary members.

Labour for a Green New Deal, CLPs which submitted the motion and our allies will appeal this self-defeating decision through the formal channels, but we will also fight the anti-democratic trend within Labour by all means necessary. It remains a political imperative at this juncture of history to struggle for a Labour Party committed to a socialist Green New Deal. Without it, we stand little chance of pushing the UK to meet its monumental obligations on climate change.

David Evans and Keir Starmer have an opportunity now to overturn this absurd, anti-democratic decision before it’s too late. With COP26 later this year and extreme weather increasingly becoming a doorstep issue, time is running out for Starmer’s Labour to decide which side it’s on when it comes to the climate crisis.

If he makes the wrong choice, he will alienate a generation. He will push young voters into the arms of the unserious Greens and Lib Dems. He will cost Labour the next general election and keep the Tories in power in what may be the most crucial decade we collectively live through.