Labour Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds has called for an end to “greenwash” in the government’s climate policy “and the start of a genuine, fair, jobs-rich transition” to a sustainable economy.
In a keynote address at New Statesman Spotlight’s online Global Policy Forum event, Dodds criticised the government’s environment record and listed what she described as multiple failings that have led to “slow progress” in recent years.
“The Green Investment Bank was sold off in 2017,” she said, a move criticised by Meg Hillier, the chair of the Public Accounts Committee. “The development of the UK solar power industry was constrained in 2015 when the feed-in tariff was slashed, and £6bn of overseas fossil fuel projects have been funded by UK Export Finance.”
Ahead of the November COP26 summit, which the UK is hosting in Glasgow, the government has made much of its green credentials, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak floating a new “green gilt”, an investment product designed to attract private money into green infrastructure projects. Dodds expressed scepticism about the new financial instrument. She told delegates that “we still don’t know exactly how it will ensure spending on green projects”, questioning whether it will be “sufficiently attractive for the wide take-up that we need to see”.
In November last year, the Prime Minister also announced a “green industrial revolution” as part of a recovery plan, taking the same name Labour had used for its sustainable economic strategy in its 2019 manifesto. That manifesto also set out plans for a Green Transformation Fund costing £250bn. Critics of the government’s current policy say the sums dedicated to its “ten-point plan” – £12bn, most of which is not new spend – are inadequate.
“A green stimulus is not only environmentally productive but economically productive as well,” said Dodds. “According to research, clean energy infrastructure investments have the strongest positive impact on emissions and on the economy. It’s known as the multiplier effect, which comes from investment creating additional economic activity and creating employment.”
Labour’s own “green economic recovery” policy, also launched last November, promised £30bn to support 400,000 new jobs in green industries, putting the UK in line with similar stimulus packages to be implemented in France and Germany.
Talking to the New Statesman’s political editor, Stephen Bush, at the close of the virtual conference, the Shadow Chancellor challenged the government to “move beyond its short-term approach to planning and regulation”. Dodds also praised the efforts of the Bank of England for “leading the field here” with its plans to deploy an innovative climate stress test for the biggest banks, insurers, and the financial system as a whole.