By Ben Chako
Labour’s promise to make all new homes zero-carbon within three years confirms that those wanting politicians to act on the climate emergency ought to throw themselves into the campaign for a Jeremy Corbyn government.
On November 2, Parliament’s six-month window for the Conservative government to bring forward urgent plans to address global warming expired without the Tories having done anything of the sort. This is hardly surprising from a party that has given a fracking lobbyist the task of writing its manifesto.
The Tories have bent over backwards to change laws and override local authorities in the interests of the dirty and dangerous fracking industry. They have cancelled subsidies for wind and solar energy while subsidising fossil fuels more heavily than any other European government. And, as Labour points out, four years ago they scrapped the original zero-carbon homes initiative bequeathed them by the last Labour government.
Small wonder the world’s climate change denier-in-chief Donald Trump has endorsed Boris Johnson’s re-election, a move unlikely to cheer Tory strategists well aware that for all Johnson’s adoption of Trump’s fake “anti-Establishment” act, the US President himself is deeply unpopular in Britain.
The presence of Trump and other nasties such as Turkey’s warmongering and journalist-jailing strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan in London for a Nato summit a week before the election may be a circumstance Johnson has cause to regret.
If it has the courage and consistency to throw itself into the protests planned against this warlords’ jamboree Labour can capture the prevailing mood for radical change as the party of peace, climate action and social justice.
The zero-carbon homes pledge is only the latest of a series of commitments showing that the party is thinking hard about how to reset Britain’s economy on a more sustainable basis.
It is also planning to build another 9,000 wind turbines, install eight million electric heat pumps to move households away from reliance on gas, build a national network of electric vehicle charging points while introducing interest-free loans for electric cars and make emissions reduction one of the purposes of a revamped and renationalised National Grid.
With polling for Client Earth revealing this week that 2019 is set to be Britain’s first “climate election,” with over half those polled saying climate change would affect the way they vote, it is important that socialists are able to mobilise Labour votes on this issue. The huge demonstrations by Extinction Rebellion that dominated London for two weeks of October put a number of demands for climate action to politicians.
There remains disagreement on the left about the specific content of some of them. But that cannot be a reason for anyone serious about radically reshaping our economy to deny Labour their vote. This is partly because Labour is the only party other than the Conservatives who can form the next government.
But it is also true that the Green Party, which deserves huge credit for putting environmental concerns onto the political agenda over years of thankless campaigning, does its supporters a disservice by mooting an electoral pact with the Lib Dems — whose status quo, free market politics has no answers to the climate crisis.
One thing climate activists are agreed on is that business as usual is not an option if we are to avoid ecological catastrophe.
Banners and placards at Extinction Rebellion demos point out further that system change is necessary if we are to tackle climate change, because capitalism is a rapacious and profit-driven system dependent on constantly intensifying the exploitation of the planet’s resources — whether human, animal, vegetable or mineral.
The Tories’ election slogan is — oddly for a sitting government — “Britain deserves better.” So does our planet and the whole human race. If we want action, not words, on protecting the environment we have to ensure that Corbyn replaces Johnson in No 10 this winter.