The £28bn green investment debate has become a distraction, Labour in government will take climate action - Katie White

It’s easy to forget that the Labour Party has never been more progressive on climate. For the first time in the party’s 120-year-plus history, clean energy and green growth sit in our top priorities for Government.

Keir Starmer has vowed to restore our country’s global credibility on climate, Rachel Reeves has set out historic plans to apply all government spending against “a net zero and nature test,” and our Shadow Climate Secretary, Ed Miliband, has already passed the UK’s first major legislation to reduce greenhouse gases.

Yet, the debate on Labour’s £28bn pledge risks distracting us from a bigger prize.

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Rachel Reeves has made it clear that the green transition will require investment, policy, and leadership from a potential, future Labour Government. As we’ve become fixated on specific numbers, we’re getting distracted from the most important question—what’s actually needed to reach net zero and get ahead in the race to become a green superpower?

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. PIC: House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA WireLabour leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. PIC: House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA Wire
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. PIC: House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA Wire

As Keir Starmer puts it, the mission isn’t writing a cheque and we shouldn’t forget why we’re in this financial mess. The Conservatives have played scorched earth politics with the country’s public finances and the bitter truth is that allocating the necessary public money would be a lot easier if we had serious leaders in Downing Street.

Taking a step back, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to crack on with the hard-headed policy change that will change our situation. That is what will unlock the trillions of private sector finance needed for the green transition.

Climate is why I’m in politics. The last 20 years of my life have been dedicated to fighting for a safer, healthier planet. When I ran for selection in the new constituency of Leeds North West, I put climate at the heart of my campaign, and won on that platform. Growing up in West Yorkshire, my student days opened my eyes to the threat climate change posed. I came home fired up and started campaigning with Friends of the Earth, co-leading the campaign for what became the 2008 Climate Change Act, the legal foundation of our country’s approach to reducing emissions, and then worked in Government to prepare for the 2009 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

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Recent polling shows the public ranks the threat of climate change as the fifth most significant issue facing our country, even above issues like crime and schools. People want action on climate, but they also want a bit of hope about how they’ll benefit from the surge in green jobs and industries.

As a born and bred Northerner, I’m excited about the opportunities that green industries can offer us. As reported in the Financial Times, England’s north-south inequality is now worse than the inequality seen between East and West Germany when the wall came down. That’s why we need to attract business investment and jobs to our neck of the woods.

The estimated 19,000 jobs across Yorkshire that could come from upgrading homes for construction workers, plumbers, and installers would start to help level the playing field. Beyond construction, West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin estimates that 70,000 jobs will be created in our region by 2050, with 40,000 by 2030.

The real financing will come from the private sector, and those businesses need certainty. We need leadership that will lead Britain through a Green Industrial Revolution - that is Keir and Rachel.

Katie White OBE is the Labour candidate in Leeds North West.

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