Contrary to what Sky News and Boris Johnson might tell you, this isn’t just a Brexit election.
As Jeremy Corbyn made clear from day one, this election is a historic opportunity to tackle the biggest crises facing us – inequality, austerity and the climate crisis – and transform Britain for the many. Buffeted by Brexit wars and bogged down in parliamentary minutiae, Labour went into this election on the back foot. But by building an insurgent campaign based on a vision of a better society for all, Labour is rising once more. It’s in this spirit that we in Labour for a Green New Deal are today launching our strategy to win the UK’s first ‘climate election’ for Labour.
We shouldn’t be in any doubt that this is a climate election. In the wake of a year of worldwide climate chaos and mushrooming mass protest, from Extinction Rebellion to the global climate strike, ecological breakdown has shot up the agenda. An Opinium poll found that 54% of voters would factor climate change into their choice at the ballot box (rising to 74% for young people), with nearly two-thirds of voters backing proposals for a Green New Deal or Green Industrial Revolution.
Already there have been calls for a ‘climate debate’, swiftly taken up by Jeremy Corbyn and other party leaders. Knowing that – as with the rest of our society’s problems – the Conservatives have no answers, Boris Johnson is trying to wriggle out of it. Determined not to let him off the hook, youth strikers have today demonstrated outside Conservative party headquarters.
Labour should feel confident in pushing climate breakdown to the fore in this election. Labour’s radical climate platform is based on massive public investment, re-skilling hundreds of thousands of people to work in renewable energy industries, comprehensive home insulation programmes, and improved public transport systems. These highly popular policies are the only proposal capable of overcoming the Brexit-based schism in the electorate, and the only option ambitious enough to decarbonise our economy by 2030. With over 11,000 scientists this month calling for “major transformations in the ways our global society functions” in order to avoid “untold suffering”, Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution could become a trailblazer for an international push to halt capitalism’s runaway climate juggernaut before it ploughs over the cliff.
Climate is a favourable terrain for Labour. Nearly every major union backs the party’s proposals for a Green New Deal: support within the organs of the working class that the Liberal Democrats and Greens cannot hope to match. Labour’s two main competitors, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, offer murderously complacent decarbonisation targets of 2050 and 2045, respectively. By then, global food systems will have been ravaged by changing weather patterns and irreversible ecological collapse will be well underway. It’s fair to say any promises the Tories make on climate will fall flatter than Michael Gove when their manifesto is being drafted by a former lobbyist for the fracking industry.
With Labour’s crucial Clause V meeting coming up this weekend – where the party decides the detail of the final manifesto – it is crucial that Labour stands firm on a 2030 decarbonisation target, reached through a massive publicly-funded Green New Deal, and with workers and climate justice at its heart. Labour’s party conference called for it, the youth strikers are calling for it, at least seven unions are backing it. The public is ready for the radical action we now require, and to stop short of this necessary ambition would be to throw the Global South under a bus – or, in a literal sense, under water.
Today, Labour for a Green New Deal has launched plans to mobilise thousands of people to win this climate election for Labour. We will be running nationwide ‘climate canvasses’, a national weekend of climate action from 29 November, a ‘digital climate army’ and a network of 50 local groups to push climate change up the agenda in every constituency.
We will be working to bring the climate crisis to the lips of every Labour politician, onto the doorstep of every home, and into the studio of every major media outlet. 13 December 2019 may go down as a turning point in the struggle not only for a more just society, but for there to be any kind of livable future at all.
Aliya Yule is a co-founder of Labour for a Green New Deal.