The future of climate change
With Labour’s recent proposal for a publicly owned energy company with full focus on clean energy, Sidney Watson discusses the future of climate change and whether politicians ever stand by their promises.
On September 27th, Keir Starmer addressed the annual Labour Conference, committing to create a “new national champion in clean energy”: a publicly owned and operated energy company, Great British Energy, that would invest £8bn in wind, solar, tidal and nuclear energy projects within Britain. Its aims: cut energy costs for consumers, generate energy stability and independence, create new jobs and achieve 100 per cent clean energy by 2030.
For climate scientists, this is a dream come true, marking a huge commitment to the fight against climate change. Following the examples of France’s EDF and Sweden’s Vattenfall, a company like this could fill the gap in the market for clean energy and lead Britain’s transformation to a net-zero economy. Moreover, unlike prior calls by Corbyn’s Labour to entirely nationalise energy companies, Starmer’s plan looks politically viable. Rather than taking over the energy market, this publicly owned energy company would work within the existing market, working alongside private companies to expand the supply of clean energy– a less extreme policy sure to garner greater support across the political spectrum.
For climate scientists, this is a dream come true, marking a huge commitment to the fight against climate change.
On paper, then, this commitment is seemingly perfect: a clear, popular plan that, if enacted, would make serious headway to achieving no more than 1.5 degrees of warming and net-zero emissions by 2050, as laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement and COP26. However, looking back at the history of climate policy, it’s hard not to feel a little uneasy with a promise this seemingly perfect.
Time and time again politicians have over-promised and under-delivered on climate policy. Governments change, new (more urgent) issues arise, public opinion shifts, and promises are never realised; with something as intangible and long-term as climate change, it’s difficult for election cycle-focused politicians to take real action. Even now, just a year on from the UK hosting COP26 Climate Summit and signing onto to drastically cut emissions, Liz Truss’s government is awarding dozens of North Sea oil and gas permits in order to combat a more pressing concern – the cost of living crisis. So, is Labour’s plan just another empty promise?
So, is Labour’s plan just another empty promise?
For now, it seems so. Until Labour can wrest back control of Downing Street from the Conservative’s grasp, Great British Energy may be little more than a pipe dream. However, we shouldn’t entirely give up hope: it’s possible that dreams may become reality sooner than we may think. Liz Truss’ turbulent first few weeks in office has put the Conservative party below 20 per cent in a new poll, leaving many to speculate whether a General Election is on the horizon. With Labour polling at 53 per cent (a 34-point lead), Starmer’s vision for a green future might be realised sooner rather than later. Nonetheless, for now, Labour remains the opposition party and they face a long, tough road to win back power and put this plan into action. As is often the case, the future of Climate Change continues to rest on high levels of political uncertainty, and the question remains: will we be able to do enough, in time?