Policy is part of a green industrial revolution promised by the party if elected
Labour will build a national network of charging points for electric vehicles at a cost of £3.6bn to kickstart its planned “green industrial revolution” if elected, the party will say on Monday.
The rollout of rapid-charging stations on motorways and urban streets would be enough for more than 21m cars in the next decade, and, the party said, would remove one of the biggest obstacles to electric car ownership and create 3,000 skilled jobs for electricians and engineers.
Labour would also offer interest-free loans for electric vehicles, with the measures together forecast to ensure electric cars make up two-thirds of the total UK fleet by 2030.
Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, said the initiative would drastically reduce air pollution as well as greenhouse gases.
“The climate crisis is right at the forefront of British politics at the moment, helped by the climate strikes, Extinction Rebellion and the mass movement that we’ve seen on our streets,” she told the Guardian.
“It’s shown that people are very, very angry at the lack of action the government is taking. In fact, we’ve got something verging on a climate denier as our prime minister, and that’s very worrying.”
Transport has overtaken energy generation as the biggest single source of UK carbon emissions, as more electricity now comes from renewable sources and coal is phased out. But the uptake of electric vehicles has stalled, in part because of the government’s removal of subsidies that made them cheaper.
The new measures are also calculated to throw a lifeline to the under-pressure car industry, which has been hit by poor sales.
“It’s not Brexit that’s impacting the automotive sector and moving them to the edge of a cliff – there’s a whole raft of headwinds they’re facing that’s stopping them being able to engage in the electric vehicle revolution,” said Long-Bailey. “They won’t do it themselves without support from government.”
Labour will unveil further policies to tackle the climate emergency, including changes to the planning system to allow onshore windfarms, which have been effectively blocked by planning restrictions put in place under David Cameron. On Tuesday, most of the party conference is scheduled to be given over to debate on climate issues.
The green industrial revolution is Labour’s central policy for reviving the UK’s economic fortunes and providing high-quality jobs, as well as protecting against climate chaos.
Long-Bailey said: “We saw that there could be an economic opportunity where we could rebuild economies, particularly in the industrialised towns that had been left behind for many decades, and provide hope for the future.
“By tackling the climate crisis we’re actually going to make people’s lives better, to provide their children and grandchildren with the jobs and the industry for the future.”
The investment required will come from the £250bn national transformation fund planned by the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, a “large proportion” of which will go directly to the green industrial revolution.
The green industrial revolution is also intended to make climate policies mainstream. “[It] always annoyed me [that] tackling climate change was seen as a luxury individual choice to make: if you were quite hip you’d make sure you got organic vegetables or a solar panel,” said Long-Bailey.
“But that is not going to tackle the climate crisis – the only way is to reach out to people who don’t understand about climate change. You’ve got to show people this is going to make their lives better economically [and] use this as an opportunity to create jobs and make sure they’re high paid, secure and unionised.”
There is growing support among Labour members for a radical environmental pitch, with some seeing it as a way to heal or overtake Brexit rifts. Organisers of the grassroots campaign Labour for a green new deal point to 128 constituency parties backing its plans, outnumbering those backing Brexit-related motions.
Clare Hymer, the co-founder of Labour for a Green New Deal campaign, said pressure from grassroots activists had ensured that the environment “will be at the top of the agenda” for the first time in the party’s history.
“People are looking to Labour to continue showing leadership on climate justice,” she said. “We have the opportunity to do so at conference this year by adopting a green new deal which goes significantly further than any other party’s climate offering, with a zero carbon by 2030 target, as well as guaranteed green jobs, universal services and an expansion of public ownership.”
Momentum, the grassroots Labour group that supports Corbyn, has also been mobilising support for a radical environmental justice offer.
Laura Parker, Momentum’s national co-ordinator, said that as the evidence of environmental breakdown gathered pace – from the Amazon to floods and heatwaves across the UK and Europe – the climate crisis was emerging as a “huge issue on the doorstep”.
“Labour needs to adopt a bold, transformative solution to tackling climate change [and] a radical green new deal has a huge amount of support at Labour’s grassroots.”
She said many trade unions were also supporting the measures. “With even the Liberal Democrats adopting a more ambitious target on climate change, Labour need to strike out and show we are the only party that can take on the oil barons and their billionaire backers, tackling both the climate crisis and rebalancing our economy for the many, not the few.”
The idea of a green new deal has also been adopted by the youth climate movement in the UK, which sees the combination of environmental and social justice as the best way to tackle the unfolding crisis.
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