The climate emergency has risen to the top of the UK’s election agenda in a way that would have been “unthinkable” even five years ago, leading environmentalists have said, predicting that it augurs a permanent change in British politics. On Wednesday, Labour took the unprecedented move of putting green issues as the top section of its manifesto, the first time one of the UK’s two major parties has done so. Jeremy Corbyn led the appeal to voters with policies including an £11bn windfall tax on oil and gas companies, a million new jobs in a “green industrial revolution” and commitments on moving to a net-zero carbon economy. “Such focus on climate and the environment would have been almost unthinkable five years ago,” said Shaun Spiers, executive director of the Green Alliance. “Tackling climate change runs through this manifesto in a way that is unprecedented from either of the main parties ahead of a UK general election.” “It would not have been possible five years ago,” said Tom Burke, chairman of environmental thinktank E3G and former adviser to several governments, who said the move marked a permanent change in British politics, as younger voters in particular were “energised” over the environment. Public anxiety had been fuelled by people seeing extreme weather around the world, and the rise of climate activism in movements such as Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strikes reflected that. “The politicians are following the public on this, not the other way round.” Public concern over the climate is “unequivocal”, and people “back decarbonisation by a massive margin”, said Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. “The UK has never had an election like this one in terms of the profile of climate change. To have all the major parties supporting a transition to net zero within a few decades, and competing with each other on policies to deliver, is unprecedented.” Labour disappointed many green campaigners by failing to put a date on its commitment to a net-zero carbon economy. After union pressure, a proposal to mandate the transformation by 2030 was watered down to “achieve the substantial majority of our emissions reductions by 2030”, which should imply swifter and stronger action than the Tory pledge to decarbonise by 2050, but leaves room for interpretation. There was also no frequent-flyer levy, despite increasing concern over aviation emissions from the independent Committee on Climate Change, and a heavily hedged green light on airport expansion.
Guardian 21st Nov 2019 read more »