Corbyn's green vision wins: leaked manifesto promises huge environmental gains

| 11th May 2017
Jeremy Corbyn at a political rally in North London, 15th August 2016. Photo: Steve Eason via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).
Jeremy Corbyn at a political rally in North London, 15th August 2016. Photo: Steve Eason via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).
A huge raft of environmental reforms is promised in the Labour Party's draft manifesto, writes Oliver Tickell. Among the highlights: a ban on fracking; a clean energy policy based on renewables and efficiency; no commitment to new nuclear power; to meet our Paris Agreement obligations on climate; to give companies a legal obligation to protect the environment; to retain all EU environment laws post-Brexit; and multilateral nuclear disarmament.
Jeremy Corbyn's supporters will be delighted to see that his inspiring environmental vision has won out - so far at any rate - against his detractors, matching previous promises made in The Ecologist.

At first sight it looks too good to be true. Labour's leaked manifesto could almost have been written by environmental campaigners and promises a far greener Britain than that we currently inhabit.

And if you compare it to the Britian that the Conservative Party has planned for us if it wins the election, with EU environmental regulations and the twin nature directives stripped away, and even the Climate Change Act under threat, Labour's vision of the UK's future just looks all the brighter and greener.

Of course it's not quite that simple. Among the very positive green promises lurk several less welcome items such as a commitment to expanding aviation provision, controversial port expansion, and support for expensive, locally unpopular high speed rail projects including HS2.

It's regrettable that there is no clear promise to drop new nuclear power stations. But the commitment to "support further nuclear projects" looks deliberately vague and leaves lots of wriggle-room. There are plenty of decommissioning projects coming up which will need government support, or maybe projects to make isotopes for medical use, or scientific research.

Taken in the round, the vision is overwhelmingly positive and has to earn at least nine out of ten. The biggest problem: so far it's only a draft. Items may still be dropped or watered down in the final version. And the commitments made are so numerous that there may not be time to put them all into effect in a single term of office.

Certainly Jeremy Corbyn's supporters will be delighted to see that his inspiring environmental vision has won out - so far at any rate - against his detractors, matching previous promises made in The Ecologist.

From here on quotes excerpted from the manifesto are presented in plain type with no further comment.

Sustainable energy

The first missions set by a Labour Government will be to ensure that 60% of the UK's energy comes from low or renewable sources by 2030. ...

Labour's energy policy is built on three simple principles: take energy back into public ownership to deliver renewable energy, affordability for consumers, and democratic control.

The new public system will include three key elements:

  • Central government control of the natural monopolies of the transmission and distribution grids, and of responsibility for the policy and information functions of the regulator.
  • At least one publicly owned energy company in every region of the UK, that is a locally run, democratically accountable energy supplier, working to tackle fuel poverty, return profits to customers via reduced tariffs, support community energy projects and have drive larger energy companies to lower their prices in the area.
  • A new Local Energy Task Force will provide help and advice for local people and businesses to start up Community Energy Cooperatives.

Energy efficiency in 4 million homes

Jeremy Corbyn's supporters will be delighted to see that his inspiring environmental vision has won out - so far at any rate - against his detractors, matching previous promises made in The Ecologist.

Labour will insulate four million homes as an infrastructure priority to help those who suffer in cold homes each winter. This will cut emissions, drive growth, improve health, increase energy security, save on bills and reduce fuel poverty and excess winter deaths.

Homeowners will be offered 0% loans to improve their property, and we will introduce revenue neutral stamp duty incentives to encourage a good energy efficiency standard at the point of sale.

For renters, Labour will improve upon Landlord Energy Efficiency regulations and re-establish the Landlord Energy Saving Allowance to encourage the uptake of efficiency measures.

A Labour government will legislate to enforce the highest modern standards for 'zero carbon' buildings that generate as much energy on site as they use in heating, hot water and lighting. The technology is there.

Fracking ban, no promise of new nuclear

Labour will ban fracking. To allow fracking would lock us into an energy infrastructure based on fossil fuels, long after the point in 2030 when the Committee on Climate Change says gas in the UK must sharply decline.

Emerging technologies such as carbon capture and storage will help to smooth the transition to cleaner fuels and will help to protect existing jobs as part of the future energy mix.

The UK is the world's oldest nuclear industry, and nuclear will continue to be part of the UK energy supply. We will support further nuclear projects and protect nuclear workers' jobs and pensions. There are considerable opportunities for nuclear power and decommissioning both internationally and domestically.

  • To ensure security of energy supply and 'keep the lights on'
  • To ensure energy costs are affordable for consumers and businesses
  • To ensure we meet our climate change targets and transition to a low carbon economy

The UK energy system is outdated, expensive and polluting. Privatisation has failed to deliver an energy system that delivers for people, businesses or our environment.

One-in-ten households are in fuel poverty, yet according to the Competition Markets Authority customers are overcharged an enormous £2 billion every year. Labour understands that many people don't have time to shop around, they just want reliable and affordable energy.

So the next Labour Government will introduce an immediate emergency price cap to ensure that the average duel fuel household energy bill remains below £1,000 per year, while we transition to a fairer system for bill payers.

Climate change

Tackling climate change is non-negotiable, yet recent years have seen a failure to progress towards our targets. A Labour Government will put us back on track to meet the targets in the Climate Change Act and the Paris Agreement.

Building a clean economy of the future is the most important thing we must do for our children, our grandchildren and future generations.

The low carbon economy is one of the UK's fastest growing sectors, creating jobs and providing investment across each region. It employed an estimated 447,000 employees in the UK in 2015 and saw over £77 billion in turnover. With backing from a Labour government these sectors can secure dominant shares of global export markets.

Corporate governance - a duty of environmental care

At present directors owe a duty to promote the company for the benefit of the shareholders, and must only have regard to employees, suppliers, the environment etc.

Labour proposes to amend the Companies Act 2006 so that directors owe a duty directly to these groups and will consult on who the duty will be owed to. We want long-term growth and stability not short-term profits.

The next Labour government will use the leverage of the £200 billion national and local government spends in the private sector to upgrade our economy, create good local jobs and reduce inequality. This will include requiring best practice from firms government does business with on:

  • paying tax
  • workers' rights
  • equal opportunities
  • environmental protection
  • training and apprenticeships
  • paying suppliers on time; and
  • boardroom excess, by moving to a 20:1 limit on the gap between the lowest and highest paid for government contract.

Brexit - EU environmental laws will be safe in our hands!

Currently the UK buys and sells energy tariff free from Europe, an arrangement which saves families and businesses money and helps balance the power grid.

As part of the Brexit negotiations Labour will prioritise maintaining access to the internal energy market and will retain access to Euratom, to allow continued trade of fissile material, access to and collaboration over research vital to our nuclear industry.

We will drop the Conservatives' Great Repeal Bill, replacing it with an EU Rights and Protections Bill that will ensure there is no detrimental change to workers' rights, equality law, consumer rights or environmental protections as a result of Brexit.

Throughout the Brexit process, we will make sure that all EU-derived laws - including workplace laws, consumer rights and environmental protections - are fully protected without qualifications, limitations or sunset clauses.

We will work with trade unions, businesses and stakeholders to ensure there is a consensus on this vital issue. A Labour approach to Brexit will ensure there can be no rolling back of key rights and protections and that the UK does not lag behind Europe in workplace protections and environmental standards in future.

The EU has had a huge impact in securing workplace protections and environmental safeguards. But we all know that for many Brexiteers in the Tory Party, this was why they wanted to Leave - to tear up regulations and weaken hard-fought rights and protections.

A Labour Government will never consider these rights a burden or accept the weakening of workers' rights, consumer rights or environmental protections.

Housing and planning

We will prioritise brownfield sites, and protect the green belt. We will start work on a new generation of New Towns to build the homes we need and avoid urban sprawl.

Labour will extend the provision of legal aid entitlement to judicial review. A Labour government will consult on establishing an environmental tribunal.

It is through the planning system that communities can shape the kinds of high streets, homes and amenities that they want. But under the Conservatives, planning has been ender-resourced and disempowered, with democratic planning authorities unable to stand up to big developers.

As a result, planning decisions have become too influenced by narrow economic considerations, with developers' profit taking precedence over community priorities.

A Labour government will properly resource and bolster planning authorities with fuller powers to put people and communities at the heart of planning. We will update compulsory purchase powers to make them more effective as a tool to drive regeneration and unlock planned development.

Food and farming

The Conservatives have failed to provide a clear, ambitious or sustainable vision for the future of the farming, food and fishing industries.

We will expand the role of the Groceries Code Adjudicator to ensure suppliers and consumers get a fair deal

We will reconfigure funds for farming and fishing to support smaller traders, local economies, community benefits and sustainable practices

Labour will invest in a modern, integrated, accessible transport system that is reliable and affordable. ...

Transport - big upgades to a publicly owned railway

A different system is possible. A Labour government will prioritise public service over private profit. And we will start by bringing our railways back into public ownership, as franchises expire. A Labour government will introduce a Public Ownership of the Railways Bill to repeal the Railways Act 1993 under which the Conservatives privatised our railways. ...

A publicly owned railway system can be the backbone of our plans for integrated transport. It will be built on the platform of Network Rail, already in public ownership, and consider establishing a new public rolling stock company.

A Labour government will complete the HS2 high speed rail line from London through Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester, and then into Scotland, consulting with communities affected about the optimal route. ...

A Labour government will link HS2 with other new investments, such as Crossrail of the North. To harness the economic potential of new technologies and science we will complete the Science Vale transport arc, from Oxford to Cambridge through Milton Keynes.

To prepare for global new trade arrangements, we will study the feasibility of port development in Southampton and Avonmouth as well as Liverpool, Hull and Immingham.

In London, to ensure our capital continues to prosper, we will build Crossrail 2 and devolve responsibilities for running the commuter train lines to the Transport for London authority.

We will invest in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, too, working with devolved administrations through the National Infrastructure Commission.

Our plans for will encourage and enable people to get out of their cars, for better health and a cleaner environment.

Across the country we will enable the creation of municipal bus companies, publicly run for passengers not profit.

We will introduce regulations to designate and protect routes of critical community value, including those that serve local schools hospitals and isolated settlements in rural areas.

We will better regulate the licensed taxi and private carriage hire sectors in the knowledge that new technologies, consumer service and public safety all require the competitive playing field between these sectors to be levelled.

Upgrading cycleways - but also roads, ports, airports

We will invite the National Infrastructure Commission to recommend the next stages for developing and upgrading the National Cycle Network.

We will continue to upgrade our highways and improve road works at known bottlenecks. The A1 North, the Severn Bridge and the A30 provide essential connections and require our urgent consideration.

We will refocus the roads building and maintenance programmes on road safety, connecting our communities, feeding public transport hubs and realising untapped economic potential.

Our rail freight programme on a publicly owned railway will leave our roads freer and our air cleaner.

Labour supports the expansion of aviation capacity and we will continue to support the work of the Airports Commission.

Environmental protection

Investing in our environment is investing in our future. We will defend and extend existing environmental protections.

We will champion sustainable farming, food and fishing by investing in and promoting skills, technology, market access and innovation.

The Conservatives broke their promise to be the 'greenest government ever'. They have allowed fracking in national parks, evaded their responsibilities on air quality, and cut the funding for flood defences. The future of our farming, food and fishing industries hangs in the balance, to be used as negotiating leverage in Brexit negotiations.

Only a Labour government will prioritise a sustainable, long term future for our farming, fishing and food industries, invest in rural and coastal communities and guarantee the protection and advancement of environmental standards.

The Conservatives threatened bonfire of red tape, as part of Brexit, is a threat to our environmental protections and to the quality of our lives. Their record on combating climate change and environmental damage has been one of inaction and broken promises.

The balance needs resetting: our air is killing us, our farms face an uncertain future, our fish stocks are collapsing, our oceans are used as dumping grounds, our forests, Green Belt, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are all under threat.

Labour will introduce a new Clean Air Act to deal with the Tory legacy of illegal air quality.

We will establish Blue Belts in the seas and oceans surrounding our island.

We will set guiding targets for plastic bottle deposit schemes, working with food manufacturers and retailers to reduce waste.

We will protect our bees by prohibiting neonicotinoids.

We will work with farmers and foresters to plant a million trees of native species to promote biodiversity and better flood management.

Unlike the Conservatives who attempted to privatise them, Labour will keep our forests in public hands.

Animal welfare

Animals in our food chain need protection. Domestic animals require stronger protection from cruelty. Wild animals need a sustainable ecosystem.

Our stewardship of the environment needs to be founded on sound principle and based on scientific assessment.

Labour's vision is for the UK to lead the world with high animal welfare standards in the wild, in farming and with domestic animals.

We will cease the badger cull which spreads Bovine TB.

We will use reconfigured funding streams to promote cruelty free animal husbandry and consult on ways to ensure better enforcement of agreed standards.

We will prohibit the third party sale of puppies, introduce a total ban on ivory trading, and support the ban on wild animals in circuses.

Labour banned fox hunting, Theresa May opposed it. Only a Labour government will maintain the ban.

Democratic and constitutional reform

As we change our constitutional relationship with Europe we must also adjust our own arrangements. Just as many felt that power was too centralised and unaccountable in Brussels, so many feel that about Westminster.

A Labour government will establish a constitutional convention to examine and advise reform of the way Britain works at a fundamental level.

We will consult on its form and terms of reference but our aim is clear: we will invite recommendations to check the privileges of the elite and give power back to the people.

This is about where power and sovereignty lies - in politics, the economy, the justice system, and in our communities.

Labour will establish a Constitutional Convention to take forward the debate about a new constitutional settlement for the entire UK, with England as much as a priority as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Convention will look at extending democracy locally, regionally and nationally.

Our fundamental belief is that the second chamber should be democratically elected. In the interim period we will seek to end the hereditary principle and reduce the size of the current House of Lords as part of a wider package of constitutional reform to address the growing democratic deficit across Britain.

Multilateral nuclear disarmament

Labour supports the renewal of the Trident submarine system. But any prime minister should be extremely cautious about ordering the use of weapons of mass destruction which would result in the indiscriminate killing of millions of innocent civilians.

As a nuclear armed power, our country has a responsibility to fulfil our international obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Labour will lead multilateral efforts with international partners and the UN to create a nuclear free world.

International development

We fully support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by the international community as a global agenda for poverty eradication and environmental protection. Labour will develop a cross-government strategy for ensuring the SDGs are implemented, and report annually to Parliament on our performance.

Jobs in global supply chains can be of enormous importance to working people across the Global South, but human rights abuses and exploitation of lower environmental standards and workers' rights is too common.

Labour is committed to ensuring respect for human rights, workers' rights and environmental sustainability in the operations of British businesses around the world, and we will work to tighten the rules governing corporate accountability for abuses in global supply chains. 



Oliver Tickell is contributing editor at The Ecologist.

Read the full leaked draft mainfesto here.

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