Labour: Starmer 'caves like a house of cards' - cutting party's £28b climate investment pledge by 80%

One expert says not realising climate change is the most significant threat to economic stability ever is tantamount to 'total economic recklessness'
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Labour has dropped its pledge to spend £28 billion a year investing in new green tech and initiatives, in a move which has seen pundits questioning Keir Starmer's climate leadership.

Party leader Starmer confirmed Labour is slashing its £28 billion-a-year green investment pledge by almost 80% on Thursday (8 February), blaming the Conservatives for a “very broken” economy. The plan was first mooted by Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves back in October, and saw environmentalists and climate advocacy groups say they were "encouraged" by the planned investment in tackling the climate crisis.

The pledge had come as the Conservative government appeared to be rowing back on its own climate policies. Rishi Sunak announced delays to the banning of new petrol and diesel vehicles - originally set for 2030 - would be pushed back five years, while only 80% of gas boilers would need to be phased out by 2035 rather than all of them. The government has also moved to entrench new licencing rounds for oil and gas exploration in law, so future governments would be required to hold them each year.

Starmer shared details of Labour's new 'Green Prosperity Plan' on Thursday afternoon, which cut climate investment down to less than just £4.7 billion a year, according to the Financial Times. He told reporters he did not want a “row about the size of a cheque” as he confirmed Labour would ditch the £28 billion-a-year figure, with the party now planning to spend a total of £23.7 billion over the entire course of its term if elected to parliament.

Labour leader Keir Starmer is expected to ditch the party's £28 billion-a-year green investment pledge on Thursday (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)Labour leader Keir Starmer is expected to ditch the party's £28 billion-a-year green investment pledge on Thursday (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
Labour leader Keir Starmer is expected to ditch the party's £28 billion-a-year green investment pledge on Thursday (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

One of the victims is set to be the Labour's Warm Homes Plan, a £6 billion package of measures to improve energy efficiency, with Labour saying it will now take longer than originally estimated to upgrade insulation in homes. PA reporters at the scene said Starmer sought to play down the u-turn on Thursday, saying “everything on the table is staying on the table” when it comes to the Green Prosperity Plan.

The Labour leader insisted it would keep striving for clean power by 2030, stressing that it could still be achieved. He also said the windfall tax on oil and gas companies would be extended to the end of the next parliament, with the energy profits levy rising to 78% to help fund the plan.

News the opposition planned to back down on promised investment in developing green tech and climate solutions was met with a resounding call for real leadership, in the face of the climate crisis. Professor Lorenzo Fioramonti - director of the University of Surrey's Institute for Sustainability - said the move showed "how unfit this generation of leaders is to tackle climate crisis".

"Politicians on both the right and left of the political spectrum are so short-sighted that one is pushed to believe that the solution to the environmental and social crisis will not come from politics," he said. "[Labour] argue that they can't commit funding to the green transition because they must be economically responsible. This is a ludicrous statement: climate change is the most significant threat to economic stability that the world has ever faced. Not understanding this is tantamount to total economic recklessness."

The news has also attracted anger and dismay from environment and climate action groups. Greenpeace UK’s co-executive director, Areeba Hamid, said Starmer had "caved like a house of cards in the wind". She continued: "As well as scaling the investment back by around 80%, just a fraction will be spent on insulating homes, and not even a penny will be spent on public transport. These are two of the sectors in greatest need of new government investment to seize the opportunities of green growth, level up the country and lower bills.

“This country is broken. We need bold, visionary leadership that will lower bills, create millions of jobs, increase our energy security, and tackle the existential threat of climate change. The British public and businesses are crying out for a green industrial strategy fit for the 21st century, not a hollowed out plan with an empty wallet.”

Friends of the Earth’s head of policy, Mike Childs, slammed what it described as backtracking on funding to insulate UK homes. "By seriously watering down its warm homes plan, the Labour Party has turned its back on the people who most urgently need these essential upgrades – the many millions of low-income households suffering from living in poorly insulated homes," he said.

"The party's claims that it is doubling the current government’s spending commitment are misleading because not all the money is to be spent on insulation. Their new pledge pales in comparison to the investment required to tackle the worst homes and lift millions out of hardship." Before the official announcement, Mr Childs had said: “Green investment doesn’t just deliver for the planet; it also benefits our health and economy. Cutting it would be short-sighted and cost the country dearly.

“The UK is already lagging behind in the race to manufacture green steel, build electric vehicles, and develop giga-battery factories. Thousands of jobs are at risk if we don’t match the investment the US and the rest of Europe are making in these industries," he continued. “For years UK climate action has been undermined by dither, delay and lukewarm support from government. We urgently need real political leadership to confront the climate crisis and seize the huge opportunities that building a greener future would bring.”

Meanwhile, WWF advocacy director Kate Norgrove had called for bold action, saying now was not the time to shy away from much-needed investment. "As extreme weather events increase and global warming breaches 1.5 degrees across a full year, it is essential that our leaders act to protect us from these risks," she said.

"Climate change is moving much faster than we are, pushing ecosystems and communities to the brink, and every fraction of a degree matters. In an election year all parties must clearly demonstrate their commitment to getting the UK back on track and bringing our world back to life."

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