The idea that a just transition must wait until we have rebuilt the old, exploitative and unsustainable economy is utterly nonsensical.
Labour Party members have launched a petition calling on Keir Starmer to deliver “a people’s bailout for workers and planet” in response to proposals from Jim McMahon, Shadow Transport Secretary, to save the failing airline industry.
The petition, coordinated by campaign group Labour for a Green New Deal, criticises Labour for planning “to fund a return to a growing aviation sector” which “would lock us into runaway climate breakdown,” and has attracted over 1,000 signatures since launching.
Labour has recently called for a support package for the aviation sector conditional on environmental commitments, such as developing cleaner fuels and new low-carbon technologies, and protecting jobs. McMahon repeated this call on Tuesday evening, arguing against plans for workers to be transitioned to greener industries at the current time.
But the party’s grassroots are demanding stronger measures, such as taking public stakes in airlines, and using this leverage to wind down domestic air routes and support workers to transition to green jobs.
New polling has lent support for a more interventionist approach to airline bailouts. Of those who supported airline bailouts, 72 percent thought the public should hold a share of the companies that receive financial assistance, leaving Labour’s position an unpopular one with the public.
Lauren Townsend, Labour for a Green New Deal’s spokesperson, said: "We welcome Labour's proposals to protect jobs, and its ambitions for a huge green recovery plan as we emerge from the coronavirus crisis. But its plans on aviation fail to live up to that ambition, nor will they create the secure, green jobs we urgently need.
"Labour is essentially calling for the return of business-as-usual air travel, locking us into runaway climate breakdown. These proposals are out of touch with party members, out of touch with the public and disastrous for the planet.”
The government recently announced Project Birch, a plan to financially support struggling companies deemed ‘strategically important’.
Labour for a Green New Deal’s petition demands that Labour works with trade unions to ensure all such bailouts contain mandatory commitments to decarbonisation and workers’ rights, and implements these principles wherever the party is in power.
In Manchester, Labour for a Green New Deal has established an environmental coalition opposing local councils’ decision to bail out Manchester Airport.
Townsend continued: “The idea that a just transition must wait until we have rebuilt the old, exploitative and unsustainable economy is utterly nonsensical. With the Tories on the verge of bailing out some of our biggest polluters, Labour must take a stand for climate action and workers’ rights.”
Marianne Brooker is The Ecologist's content editor. This article is based on a press release from Labour for a Green New Deal.