It was a busy week for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, managing to launch his Party’s green energy mission, have a photo-op with Sir Ian McKellen and canvass in Uxbridge. Starmer’s green mission, the fourth of his five national missions, was much anticipated, focussing on making Britain a clean energy superpower by 2030.
Opting for the open black shirt look with his sleeves rolled up, Starmer launched his mission at a tidal energy company’s warehouse on the industrial outskirts of Edinburgh. Flanked by Rachel Reeves, Anas Sarwar and Ed Miliband, Starmer committed to “make energy cheap and secure,” “boost jobs and investment in every region and nation of the country” and “grow our economy from the bottom up and the middle out”.
Unfortunately for Starmer, the launch faced a bit of a rocky start, with the Party promising to ferry journalists to the venue in a hydrogen-powered bus, only for this to be quickly replaced with a diesel alternative on the day. To make matters worse, the bus driver then got lost on route, twisting and turning their way through the narrow streets of Leith.
Forming the building blocks of Labour’s next manifesto, the green plan unveiled sweeping changes to the planning system that would allow onshore wind farms, electricity lines and other low-carbon infrastructure to be built quickly. Starmer also fleshed out in greater detail his plans for GB Energy and the National Wealth Fund, further detailing their roles and remit, and investment opportunities. While much of this had already been announced, Starmer and Miliband were keen to use the opportunity to reaffirm the Party’s green credentials. Just a week before, the Party came under attack following a perceived row back on their commitment to invest £28bn a year in tackling climate change, a figure that will not now be reached until the second half of a Labour parliament, in addition to damaging rows with trade unions over the future of oil and gas extraction in the North Sea.
The mission was, however, generally positively received, with green wonks and policymakers from across the political spectrum, welcoming its broad commitments. For many in the green space, Labour’s plan is seen as highly ambitious, but – with the right amount of funding and manpower – deliverable. Ed Miliband and his team have, after all, spent numerous years developing much of the thinking behind Labour’s green policy. As always though, the devil will be in the detail. The policy paper launched alongside Starmer’s speech provides greater clarity on the Party’s green pledges, but still contains sweeping statements on a number of green policy areas, including CCUS and renewable energy imports. Whether Starmer is able to achieve his ambition will inevitably depend on both the Party’s final policy commitments, and whether they can stir up the private capital investment needed to support them.