How green are Labour’s six priority ‘Missions’ for the UK?

Labour leader Kier Starmer has delivered a speech outlining six policy ‘Missions’ his Party will prioritise if it wins the upcoming election. But are they sufficient to grow the UK’s green economy?

How green are Labour’s six priority ‘Missions’ for the UK?

Image: Labour Party

Starmer delivered the speech in Essex this morning (16 May), marking a key milestone in his Party’s campaign to win the next general election. The incumbent Conservative Party must call the election by the end of January 2025 at the latest, with most observers expecting this to happen before 2024 is out.

He said he wanted to “make real out claim that a changed Labour Party is back in service of working people” and prove that Labour “cares about what the British public cares about”.

The six missions are as follows:

  • Delivering economic stability by sticking to tough spending rules
  • Adding 40,000 additional NHS appointments each week, funded by a clampdown on tax avoiders
  • Launching a new border security command to address illegal migration
  • Launching Great British Energy, a publicly owned energy company
  • Clamping down on antisocial behaviour
  • Recruiting 6,500 more teachers for public schools, paid for by increasing taxes on private schools

Here, we explore what this strategic approach could mean for Britain’s green economy.

Energy transition plans

At first glance, only one of the six Missions is directly linked to environmental sustainability – the creation of Great British Energy. This energy generation company would be a publicly owned and independently operated.

Scotland is the preferred base for the company, but Labour have stated an intention to base generation assets across the UK to provide jobs for those in need as high-carbon sectors scale back.

Starmer first promised to set up GB Energy in September 2022. He said, at the time, that the UK was missing out on the full economic opportunities of the clean energy transition because many of its major energy assets are owned and operated by firms headquartered overseas.

GB Energy is being framed as part of the solution to the energy price crisis and also a key component of Labour’s energy transition vision.

The incumbent Government has pledged to bring unabated gas-fired power out of the electricity generation mix by 2035 with its preferred options being scaling nuclear and offshore wind and retrofitting gas plants with carbon capture.

Labour, on the other hand, has a 2030 date for achieving this milestone, and has pledged a broader approach to different renewable technologies. Another key difference between the Conservatives’ strategy and Labour’s is that Labour would end new North Sea oil and gas licences.

There is nothing new in today’s speech on energy efficiency or transitioning to clean heat – two key areas with significant policy gaps according to the Government’s climate advisors and the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC).

Labour did previously pledge to upgrade the energy efficiency of 19 million homes by 2030 but has not provided details on how. It has promised stability, however, after several scheme launches and closures under the Tories.

Labour has also not yet outlined whether it will continue with existing schemes to improve the efficiency of social housing and public sector buildings.

Growing the (green) economy?

Delivering economic stability and growth is a top priority in the election campaigns of all major political parties in Britain. The UK officially dipped into a recession last year and, while an official end to the recession was declared earlier this month, Labour has called this a “technicality” and warned that most Brits are still worse off than they were pre-pandemic.

Starmer stated today that his Party will not seek to significantly increase borrowing to improve the economy. Instead, a Labour cabinet would make “tough decisions” to usher in “a decade of national renewal”.

These decision would include continuing higher taxes on fossil fuel firms, which have seen profits spike due to the energy price crisis, and also clamping down on corporate and individual tax evasion.

Labour will doubtless face calls from the private sector to set out more detailed plans on how it intends to support fast-growing sectors which could lead Britain’s economic recovery, including renewable energy, energy efficiency products and electric vehicles.

Recent analysis from CBI Economics found that the UK’s ‘net-zero economy’ grew 9% year-on-year in 2023 compared to less than 1% of growth for the broader economy. The Net-Zero Review concluded that a well-planned transition would be the economic opportunity of the century for Britain.

Labour has already promised one ‘stick’ to force the greening of the economy – the production of mandatory climate transition plans for large businesses in high-emitting sectors. This was promised by the Tories in 2021 but, while the Party has supported the creation of best-practice standards and the adoption of voluntary disclosures, there’s no sign of a mandate on the horizon.

More information on ‘carrots’ is lacking, especially given that Labour has scaled back its commitment to spend £28bn annually on the green economic transition. The Party blamed the Tories’ mismanagement of the public purse for reducing this commitment to £15bn – a move which most Brits believe was the wrong choice. There are fears that increased green public spending in the US, EU and parts of Asia will hamper the UK’s leadership internationally. As international compeition has heated up, the UK’s share of the world’s green product exports has halved since the 1990s, according to the IPPR.

The CBI has this week set out its recommendations on how the next Government could use tax policy effectively to help businesses decarbonise and grow key low-carbon sectors. Its vision includes a reduction in corporation tax, from 25% to 10%, for profits derived from low-carbon product development and sale, plus a new enhanced super-deduction rate of 120% to spur investment in sectors such as heat pumps and electric vehicles.

The IPPR and Make UK have similarly called for the next Government to get clear about its strategic plans to grow green manufacturing, identifying opportunities for Government intervention to stimulate the growth of sub-sectors such as wind turbines, electric vehicles, zero-emissions aviation and heat pumps.

The head of the IPPR’s Centre for Economic Justice Dr George Dibb said: “The UK faces three generational challenges: to deliver net zero, to level up and reinvigorate our economy, and to become more resilient to future shocks. These challenges have a common solution – seizing the growth opportunities of green manufacturing.”

It is clear that Labour’s ‘Missions’ are designed to be top-line and to appeal to a broad church of voters, with a focus on swing voters. The Party has stated that more detail will be forthcoming in the coming months and that all other existing Party commitments remain.

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