Labour, climate justice and global solidarity

| 28th June 2019
"We are one world!" Jeremy Corbyn's victory speech. Photo: Still from C4 News (see embed).

"We are one world!" Jeremy Corbyn's victory speech. Photo: Still from C4 News (see embed).

John McDonnell outlines Labour's bold plan forcing private companies to invest in the climate transition while extending solidarity to the global south.

We need a new global order with the teeth to lead on tackling climate emergency and leadership from those most urgently and severely impacted.

Labour is getting serious about climate justice in every dimension. While others posture for the optics of ‘taking climate action’, Labour is seriously preparing for government. John McDonnell has further emboldened Labour’s ambitions in a speech outlining plans to fund its plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.

McDonnell’s speech hit the headlines for its announcement on forcing private companies to invest in the energy transition. Significantly, this economic detail came alongside a welcome substantiation of the international element of Labour’s plans.

McDonnell committed to begin redressing the UK’s contributions to historic injustices. This was a sign that solidarity with the global south is not an afterthought to economic questions, but increasingly central to Labour’s climate justice ambitions.


The first announcement is for technologies developed in the UK as part of the Green Industrial Revolution to be made available for cheap or free to the global south. This begins to address the inequity in resource available to those countries most impacted by climate breakdown compared to those most responsible for it.

There will never be enough money in the world to pay the full reparations for what countries like the UK inflicted on and stole from colonised countries in the global south, including the climate impacts we see today.

Transferring zero-carbon technologies with no strings attached is one start. This should be just one part of a wider program of mobilising the UK’s economic advantage to finance a global green new deal to decarbonise and raise living standards.

Secondly, McDonnell announced he is convening an International Social Forum to discuss reforming “our global policy making architecture to address climate change”.

This begins to address the imbalance in global political economies arising from institutional arrangements formed in the interests of the wealthiest countries.

Stock exchange

Processes like COP currently block leadership from the global south rather than facilitate it. The week prior to his speech, McDonnell called out the IMF, WTO and World Bank for their failure to intervene to enforce climate commitments.

We need a new global order with the teeth to lead on tackling climate emergency and leadership from those most urgently and severely impacted.

This order must create a hostile environment for fossil fuel extraction, which continues despite a growing consensus that fuels like coal, oil and gas must stay in the ground to overt runaway climate breakdown.

In his speech McDonnell does not avoid taking on the fossil fuel industry. He challenges the “largescale investment [...] undertaken in the largely unregulated and opaque shadow banking system”.

Accompanied by an independent inquiry investigating the role of shadow banking and what intervention is necessary alongside a proposal to delist from the stock exchange companies failing to tackle climate change. 


Campaigners have targeted pension funds (including MPs’ own), which McDonnell mentions, over their investment in the companies profiting from climate breakdown. Research reveals that they are invested in extraction like fracking globally.

People & Planet and Momentum have targeted high-street banks like Barclays for their funding of fossil fuels including tar sands pipelines in First Nations territory in Canada.

As political organisers in the UK, we have incredible proximity to the corporations and financial institutions driving climate breakdown. Labour has already backed campaigns for divestment and against banks’ fossil fuel finance.

This must now translate fully into policy with a plan to block British capital from financing extraction abroad including across the global south.  

It will fall on Labour to deliver their Green Industrial Revolution in the final years remaining to transition the economy wholesale before runaway climate change becomes irreversible.

They are now developing the detailed plans needed to practically deliver the transition from government. These must maintain solidarity with the global south as a priority by pushing their economic and political commitments further.

This Author

Chris Saltmarsh is co-founder of Labour for a Green New Deal and co-director: climate change campaigns at People & Planet. He tweets at @chris_saltmarsh.