Nowhere is the void between rhetoric and reality clearer than in the Tories’ approach to the environment and promoting clean growth. Who could forget David Cameron hugging huskies in the Arctic and promising to lead the ‘greenest government ever’? The truth is that his government, and now Theresa May’s, have undermined the energy industry and green economy at every turn since those promises were made.
The list of attacks on renewable energy is shameful: cutting support for small-scale solar by 64 per cent, scrapping the zero carbon homes policy, abolishing the Department for Energy and Climate Change, reneging on the £1bn promised for carbon capture and storage research and licensing fracking.
Only last month the Minister for Clean Growth gave consent for fracking at Preston New Road, just over the Pennines. This is also a major bone of contention for thousands of people right here in Yorkshire. Our policy is very clear – a Labour government would ban fracking.
Sadly, the list doesn’t end there. In last year’s Budget, the Chancellor announced there would be no new renewable levies until 2025, meaning uncertainty for companies who otherwise would have planned new projects and invested in the UK. And, in June, the Government rejected Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon; a world-first technology which would have generated thousands of jobs and used tonnes of British steel.
Scrapping the project demonstrates the Government’s ignorance of the wider economic and social impact of its decisions and their failure to recognise that using the state’s enormous purchasing power strategically can create huge benefits.
The state spends over £200bn per year in the private sector. That spending power should be used to stimulate industry, to encourage responsible business and to incentivise cutting-edge investment.
Yet, on the Tories’ watch, millions of pounds of energy contracts have gone abroad, with a number of overseas companies winning millions in contracts from the UK Atomic Energy Authority and the former Energy and Climate Change department for engineering and scientific-related services.
In addition, the Tories’ lack of investment in – and support for – renewables have had a severe impact on the success of the industry. Cuts to solar subsidies alone led to a collapse of new installations of 86 per cent and 12,000 job losses. As a whole, clean energy investment in the UK fell by over 50 per cent in 2017 and the number of people employed in the low-carbon and renewable energy economy fell by 30,000 or 12.5 percent between 2014 and 2016.
The Conservatives simply have not given our energy industry the support it needs, but that will end when Labour is in government. We will invest in infrastructure and new green technology in every region, helping companies based in Britain to create jobs and rebalance the economy.
Yorkshire and the Humber, like many regions, has great strengths upon which we can build, such as manufacturing of wind turbines in Hull and the operation and maintenance of wind farms out of Grimsby.
Labour will commit to projects like tidal lagoons and onshore wind farms to create more opportunities for manufacturing and the green jobs of the future. Reforming our energy system is not just about economic opportunities, it is also about ensuring fairness.
That is why Labour will insulate four million homes in our first Parliament, saving households over a £1bn in bills, cutting carbon emissions and creating new skilled jobs.
We will take energy back into public ownership to deliver renewable energy, affordability for consumers, and greater democratic control.
Building a clean economy for the future is one of the most important things we can do for our children and future generations. This transition can help us tackle climate change, clean up our air and put us at the leading edge of new technologies.
Our industrial strategy places this goal at its heart by committing to 60 per cent of the UK’s energy from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030.
Tackling climate change is an opportunity for every region of the UK to grow new industries, create new export opportunities and highly-skilled, well-paid jobs.
But this can only be realised with a Labour government that is committed to investing in energy and new green technology across each region, helping companies here in Britain to succeed.
Rebecca Long Bailey is Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Labour MP for Salford and Eccles.