Barry Gardiner writing in the Sunday Express
Barry Gardiner writing in the Sunday Express

Barry has written an article for the Sunday Express setting out Labour’s vision for climate action that brings benefits to the UK. 

The article is available here:

and copied below:

Last week we had the hottest day the UK has ever seen. This week we got freak summer hailstones and flash floods that crippled whole communities in England. Really the unpredictable chaos of it all is enough to make our new Prime Minister look like a paragon of consistency!   So just for a moment, when Mr Johnson stood on the steps of Downing Street and proclaimed: “The doubters, the doomsters, the gloomsters – they are going to get it wrong”, I couldn’t help thinking he was talking about climate change.

For too long the media and climate scientists have emphasised their own version of Project Fear. We have listened to endless news stories warning of flooding from sea level rise, glaciers vanishing, and coral reefs going extinct – and how little time we have left to save them.

Of course, all that is true — the risks of climate change are indeed grave. Certainly, climate change can wreak far greater havoc on the global economy than Brexit, but we must look beyond the doomsters and gloomsters to the opportunities that a low carbon future presents if we tackle climate change properly.

I was proud that my party persuaded parliament to declare a climate emergency. After all, how can you expect to act as if there is an emergency if you are not even prepared to say that one exists? But an emergency does not have to become a catastrophe. Tackling the climate crisis with the full force of our nation’s entrepreneurial and innovative skill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rejuvenate our industrial capacity, benefit our economy, and build a new society that is healthier, fairer and happier than ever before.

If we invest in the green technologies of the future:  homes powered by solar and heated by ground source heat pumps, vehicles powered by hydrogen or electricity — electricity that comes from tidal lagoons or offshore wind turbines.  These are the new technologies that will create hundreds of thousands of new manufacturing and engineering jobs. Jobs in parts of the country that have never recovered from the destruction of our industry. Places where people look back to an industrial past of heavy manufacturing, mining and steel and ask themselves why all those jobs and all that prosperity disappeared? Some have blamed Margaret Thatcher, some have blamed the EU but no matter the analysis, we can all agree that those communities need the new jobs that a New Green Industrial Revolution will create. They need the jobs — and they need the hope and the optimism just as much.

Creating the new jobs of a low carbon industrial future will require companies and particularly our education system to invest in upskilling our workforce, training apprentices and reskilling employees to the highest levels for well-paid jobs in the green economy.

And these investments – which will bring clean power to millions of homes – will not bankrupt the country. Far from it: renewable power like wind and solar energy is now actually the cheapest way to generate electricity. This can mean cheaper energy bills and less pollution for everyone.

Energy bills in the future will not be as expensive as today if we address the challenge of climate change properly, because every home in the country will be made more energy efficient. The days of draughty houses blighted by mould, with damp creeping in on every wall will be a thing of the past. Proper insulation will be an integral part of all new build homes – and we will retrofit our existing housing stock to bring them up to standard as well. Homes fit for human habitation that actually keep us safe, warm and dry and don’t cost a fortune to heat and power. That is the the sort of revolution that most people in Britain would love to see.

And because tackling climate change means less pollution. Our lives will also be healthier as well. We know now that diesel vehicles create particulate matter and other pollutants. In fact, they have created cities where children’s lungs don’t develop properly. Globally, 4 million children develop asthma every year as a result of exhaust fumes from cars and trucks. Tackling climate change through new electric and hydrogen powered vehicles give us the ability to free ourselves from the scourge of toxic air. And this is not just a health benefit. The Independent advisors to government on these matters say that the economic benefits from clean air alone, through greater productivity, resulting in less sick days and fewer patients needing treatment in our hospitals, is equal to 1.5% of the UK’s GDP.

So, we do indeed stand on the threshold of an amazing future. A new economy built upon low carbon technologies. People trained for the skills of the next generation in highly paid engineering and technical jobs that will bring back life to some of our most depressed and forgotten communities. An everlasting supply of clean renewable energy that is cheap and doesn’t damage our children’s lungs or our productivity as a country. What’s not to like?

But all of this depends upon government. Government must prepare for it. No moaning that we can’t make a difference. The fact is that we can and we already have. We have decoupled polluting carbon emissions from economic growth. The UK has increased our GDP by 71% whilst reducing our CO2 emissions by 42%. Around the world 99 other countries (yes — including China and India) have followed the lead we set when we passed the first legally binding Climate Change Act in 2008. Those countries have now passed over 850 laws and policies to tackle climate change. They are catching us up. If we are to continue to lead the world in this new green industrial revolution, just as we did three centuries ago in that first industrial revolution, then we need government to act decisively and effectively to ramp up ambition in every area.

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