Today’s expected announcement that Labour will no longer commit to investing £28bn a year in a green prosperity plan if it wins the next election comes against the backdrop of another announcement today by the Copernicus Institute that global temperatures have surpassed the 1.5°C threshold for a year, diverging from the Paris Agreement’s long-term goal.
January 2024 has been the warmest January on record and consequently Copernicus Institute are clear that “rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are the only way to stop global temperatures increasing.”
At this point in global history and national planning, keeping green policies front and centre, particularly for homes and schools, makes clear economic, social and environmental sense – as well as being supported by the voting public, says climate solutions charity Ashden.
This week has also seen other climate and green debates calling for an uplift in political climate action, giving reinforcement to the need for rapid climate action in government.
On Tuesday this week, Philip Dunne, chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, said in a statement that MPs want more say on government plans to achieve emissions cuts in the run-up to 2050, the nation’s legally binding net-zero target date.
And today, Rt Hon Chris Skidmore, Chair of Mission Zero and former Conservative Energy Minister, called for the barriers and delays that are stopping the adoption of green energy policies to be removed with urgency. The Mission Zero 24 event brought people together to focus on building consensus and delivering climate action in 2024.
Britain is falling behind on many of the measures identified by the independent Climate Change Committee as critical to meet the nation’s climate goals. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last year also announced plans to roll back on the government’s green agenda, including a vote to support new oil and gas licenses, which prompted Chris Skidmore’s resignation as an MP.
Skidmore said: “This is a moment that [political parties] must be seen both to set out the costs, but also the benefits of the energy transition can deliver for the future. 2024 has the potential to be one of the most important years facing any policymaker or politician dedicated to making the energy transition happen.”
Dr Donal Brown, Director of UK Programmes at climate solutions charity Ashden, said: “Everyone can see that the climate impacts are being felt around the world and in the UK in terms of extreme weather events which have a knock-on effect to everyday life in a multitude of ways. So now is the time that UK political leaders of all hues must show bravery and economic common sense on the green agenda.”
Taking the example of the discussion yesterday in Prime Minister’s Questions which had a focus on insulation costs, Dr Brown insists that continuing on a green agenda is economically the most sensible route to take for the country, as well as the most environmentally and socially-sensitive course of action.
“For example, a proper programme for insulating homes could save £24 billion off our energy bills by 2030, as well as employing thousands of people across the UK and skilling up our new generation of builders and installers – something that surely makes political and economic sense?”
Ashden, points to Warm This Winter research that shows that nearly four in 10 UK households (39%) simply cannot afford to insulate their homes, so national policy and support is crucial. Warm this Winter is a coalition of anti-poverty and environmental organisations working on energy efficiency and climate action, including Ashden.
Dr Brown continues: “We need proper, concrete, decisive action now. People will respond politically when their homes are safe places to live in during weather extremes, and they don’t see their energy bills rising. This is not rocket science.”
Ashden also works extensively with schools on supporting their decarbonisation plans, through the Let’s Go Zero campaign.
“Schools are also a great example of how focusing on green policies could go very, very right – not only will schools that are built in a way that means they can spend their budgets on educating children instead of high energy bills to keep schools warm or cool, but they will keep our children healthy and happy – this is surely a vote winner?”
Shell, BP and now Equinor, have announced billions in profits this week but still Rishi Sunak introduced a tax break worth around £12 billion to the oil and gas industry which just shows how broken and how unfair our energy system is.
“That £12 billion could instead upgrade 11 million homes in the UK with proper insulation, which is what we need to stop this ongoing cycle of obscene profits and to reduce fuel poverty,” Dr Brown continues.
£12 billion could also support well over half of UK schools to get to net zero. According to TUC School Retrofit research, school buildings cause emissions of 4.1 million tonnes CO2 equivalent, out of which nearly 3 million tonnes are emitted by burning gas. The average school in England is in need of £300k-£700k in repairs and energy efficiency improvements – and repairs can also cut 15-25% off a school’s energy bill.” *
“Now is not the time to be swayed by backsliding from either political side, now is the time to explain the benefits of what is to come – in this case jobs and new skills, national energy security, homes and schools that are built to stay warm or cool, better health, and improved national prosperity. It’s a simple communications challenge and we implore all political leaders to come together and stand strong on it.”