‘Change begins now’: Labour Party claims landslide general election win, promises to ‘hit the ground running’ on key green pledges

Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak conceded defeat in the small hours of Friday (5 July) after the general public went to the polls on Thursday (4 July). At the time of 5:06am Labour reached the required 326 seats to be declared the winning party of the General Election, with BBC predicting them to win 410 seats, compared to just 144 Conservative seats.

“It feels good I have to be honest,” Starmer said. “A burden finally removed from the shoulders of this great nation. Now we can look forward again, walk into the morning…the sunlight shining once again on a country that after 14 years has the opportunity to get its future back.”

“We have to show that politics can be a force for good, the fight for trust is the battle that defines our age. Service is the precondition for hope, respect the bond that can unite a country. Together the values of this changed Labour party are the guiding principles for a new Government. Country first, Party second.”

Outgoing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s green legacy was tarred by a decision to u-turn on several key policies commitments, including a delay to the ban on new petrol and diesel car and van sales and a weakening of several targets relating to low-carbon heat and building energy efficiency.

Sunak, who kept his seat in Richmond and Northallerton said: “The Labour Party has won this general election, and I’ve called Sir Keir Starmer to congratulate him on his victory.

“Today, power will change hands in a peaceful and orderly manner, with goodwill on all sides. That is something that should give us all confidence in our country’s stability and future. The British people have delivered a sobering verdict tonight, there is much to learn… and I take responsibility for the loss.”

Starmer is expected to complete a Cabinet Reshuffle in the next few hours, but there has already been a few noteworthy MPs losing seats, including former transport secretary and current defence minister Grant Shapps. Former Prime Minister and Environment Secretary Liz Truss lost a huge majority in South West Norfolk, which was won by Labour’s Terry Jermy.

Elsewhere, there was a victory for Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer in the Bristol Central area, with the party claiming all four target sets. The party, which has long advocated for more ambitious environmental targets has quadrupled the number of seats in the Commons from one to four – the same number as Reform.

Reform, led by Nigel Farage, which published a manifesto pledging to scrap all clean energy subsidies and increase taxes on the renewables sector, is expected to have 13 MPs elected.

Which green policy changes are likely?

While TV debates have focused on the NHS and migration, the new Government has an opportunity to bring about a step-change in policymaking related to energy, the environment and sustainable business.

Current nature and waste plans have been deemed inadequate by the UK’s post-Brexit watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP). And the nation’s overarching climate strategy has twice been ruled unlawful by the High Court and picked apart by the Government’s independent climate advisors.

More ambition and clarity would doubtless be welcomed as a means to unlock inward investment and drive economic growth, as highlighted by trade groups including the CBI, consultants such as EY and the Skidmore Net-Zero Review.

Many in the private sector had been awaiting more clarity from the national Government before making green investments. A recent BSI poll found that 90% of UK businesses are seeking increased government support to decarbonise.

Labour had initially pledged £28bn of green economy investment annually, but has scaled this back citing damage to the economy done by the pandemic and Liz Truss.

Speaking to the BBC this morning, Labour’s Shadow Energy Security and Net-Zero Secretary Ed Miliband said: “People think the country is in a deep hole and they’d be right. There is a sense of realism, but people can expect that [Labour] will start to turn this round.

“We will start to turn the health service round, put more police on our streets, teachers in our classrooms and we will set up a new publicly owned energy company. We will hit the ground running with that. This is a seismic mandate for change and we will take this with the utmost seriousness that it deserves.”

labour party manifesto (1)

Nonetheless, the Party has voiced support for a new office for net-zero delivery to coordinate more joined-up policymaking between departments. And the Party’s 2024 Manifesto includes commitments to:

  • Maintain the nation’s binding 2050 net-zero target.
  • Maintain all environmental protections while boosting housebuilding.
  • Mandate FTSE100 firms and regulated FIs to produce credible net-zero transition plans.
  • Launch Great British Energy, a publicly owned renewable energy investment entity with specialism in community projects, as a priority.
  • Aim for a decarbonised electricity grid by 2030 by quadrupling offshore wind, trebling solar and doubling onshore wind.
  • Support a mix of large and small nuclear power plants.
  • End new oil and gas licences in the North Sea.
  • Spend £7.3bn on low-carbon industry over the next Parliament.
  • Bring forward a modern industrial strategy.
  • Produce a ten-year infrastructure strategy and extend R&D budget cycles.
  • Double Westminster’s energy efficiency spending to £12.6bn over the Parliament.
  • Reinstate rented property energy efficiency standards, albeit with a two-year delay.
  • Scrap the forthcoming 2035 ban on new fossil fuel heating, but implement new measures to stimulate the heat pump market.
  • Reinstate the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car and van sales.
  • Publish a land-use framework.
  • Create nine new national river walks and three new national forests.
  • Put failing water companies under special measures.
  • ‘Automatic and severe’ fines for water polluters.

The Conservatives, on the contrary, had made manifesto pledges to:

  • Maintain net-zero by 2050, but put the next phase of the delivery strategy to a Parliamentary vote.
  • Promote a “pragmatic” transition which avoids additional costs on homes and landlords at present.
  • Weaken ‘nutrient neutrality’ rules to unlock housebuilding.
  • Aim for a decarbonised electricity grid by 2035, but support new gas-fired power plants.
  • Support a mix of large and small nuclear power plants.
  • ‘Max out’ the North Sea oil and gas reserves with annual licencing for new projects.
  • Support renewable developers with modernised annual auction schemes.
  • Work with Ofgem and the NIC to cut grid connection times.
  • Spend £4.5bn on priority manufacturing sectors this financial year.
  • Create one new national park and launch an ‘urban greening’ competition.
  • Open a new home energy efficiency scheme for every household in England.
  • Ban executive bonuses at polluting water companies and reinvest water company fines in river restoration.

You can compare and contrast each Party’s green economy manifesto pledges in full here.

Communicating the transition

Attempts had been made by both Labour and the Tories to make climate and energy a wedge issue. However, recent public polling showed widespread concern (80%) about climate change and support (98%) for renewable energy.

The polling also confirmed that people are more lively to trust TV and radio documentaries for their green policy information than the UK Government, as confusion over certain technologies like hydrogen persists.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie

Subscribe