These questions were put to the candidates before the coronavirus crisis
1. Is the climate crisis the biggest issue the UK faces as a nation and will you commit to making it Labour’s priority for the duration of this parliament?
The climate crisis is the greatest challenge we face as a nation and as a globe, not just for this parliament but in the decades and century to come. The inactions of previous governments have escalated the urgency of the challenge we face; and it is a challenge we can only meet by addressing the crisis in our living standards and the crisis of faith in our democracy.
As leader I will continue the work I’ve been doing with trade unions, Labour activists and technical experts to develop a plan on how we do this, for example, developing our policies such as insulating 27m homes, using public ownership to transition to a green, affordable energy system, creating an industrial strategy to deliver high-quality, unionised jobs across the country and developing a detailed, properly funded plan to make sure no one loses out from this transition.
As a Labour party we need to work with communities about what policies they want to see that would transform their lives and meet the climate crisis. We need to continue to harness the energy and enthusiasm of campaigners and young climate strikers who have helped push the climate crisis to the top of the political agenda through their actions, and work with them to show the world we are opposed to Trump’s climate crisis denial when our country hosts Cop26 this year.
Yes. As prime minister I would make reaching climate safety the top priority for the whole of my government. I know it is not beyond us not only to build a zero-carbon economy but also to lead the global effort required to reach climate safety. I know that solving the climate crisis means integrating the solutions into every part of what the government does and that means hard-wiring the answers into the very foundations of our country’s economic and foreign policies.
One of the first things I did on becoming Labour’s shadow energy secretary back in 2015 was to read Elizabeth Kolbert’s book, Field Notes From A Catastrophe. It brought home to me the scale of the risks from the climate emergency. Climate breakdown isn’t just a far-off threat to other people in other places in some distant future. You can already see the impact that even the warming to date is having in terms of the horrific fires raging across Australia and California, the shifting rain patterns damaging livelihoods for millions of people across Asia and Africa, and the unprecedented flooding we’ve seen here in Britain in recent years. We don’t have the luxury of time so yes it would be a top priority for me during this parliament too.
The European Green Deal is the EU’s answer to what the European commission’s new president, Ursula von der Leyen, called the “existential issue” of the climate emergency. Most EU countries have signed up to goal of a climate neutral EU by 2050, a goal demanding dramatic change in energy use, farming, housing, transport, trade and diplomacy.
- As well as the long-trailed goal of enshrining in law a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, the plan will propose cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030 (compared with 1990 levels). The current target is 40%
- Making trade deals only with countries that stick to their climate targets under the Paris agreement
- Energy efficiency and renewable energy laws will be tightened up to reflect the more demanding climate targets
- To avoid penalising European steelmakers and other industry who are cleaning up their act, non-EU competitors importing energy-intensive goods could face a tax, known as “a carbon border adjustment mechanism”
- Using EU funds to develop a zero carbon steel industry by 2030.
- Car and truck makers will have to do more to curb emissions, while the EU will seek to boost funding for electric vehicle charge points. Container and cruise ships, currently a gaping hole in efforts to tackle the climate emergency, will be brought into Europe’s emissions trading system, meaning maritime companies will probably have to buy pollution permits
- A new strategy to protect European nature, as well as plans to plant and restore forests. Also proposed are plans to improve air and water quality, as well as a review that could lead to tightening of industrial pollution laws
- Targets to cut pesticides, chemical fertilisers and increase the area of land devoted to organic farming will be part of an overhaul of the EU’s €59bn a year common agricultural policy
- A plan to raise a €100bn “just transition fund” from public and private sources to help EU member states move beyond fossil fuels
The European Green Deal is only the start of the journey: laws will have to be drafted and agreed by EU ministers and MEPs; money will have to be raised; plans will have to be implemented. It is a route map, rather than a destination, and time is running out.
Yes – and for the next parliament when we are in government. We all have a common interest in rapid decarbonisation, so it needs to be a guiding thread across all policy areas: from foreign policy to local government, from transport to housing.
2. As Labour leader, how will you tackle the climate crisis between now and the next general election [ie what can be done while you are in opposition?]. Can you give three specific examples?
As leader I will continue my record of forcing the Tories to U-turn and back down on some of their most destructive policies, such as their support for fracking. It was Labour that meant parliament declared a climate and environmental emergency, work that I led. In parliament we need to keep piling the political pressure on the Tories, for example, using our presence there to bring an end to the ban on onshore wind in England and fighting any attempt to water down our environmental commitments in any trade deals we strike, particularly with the US.
At the Cop26 later this year as Labour leader I will be stood shoulder to shoulder with campaigners and activists fighting for a landmark series of commitments and agreements. The eyes of the world will be on us when Trump, the climate breakdown denier, arrives and our prime minister gives him a warm welcome. Moves to curb the civil liberties of, or label peaceful activists as extremists, must be resisted.
As Labour leader I also want to give prominence to what Labour can do in power. Many Labour local councils and mayors are declaring climate emergencies and developing their own Green New Deals with their local communities. The Labour councillors and community activists taking this lead are examples of how we can reach into local communities, organise and campaign – lessons we need to learn ahead of the next general election.
Labour's 'green new deal' - or 'green industrial revolution' - proposes a massive programme of state investment to rapidly decarbonise the economy, creating hundreds of thousands of green jobs, and transforming the way people live - from upgrading the housing stock to revitalising public transport, tackling the UK’s air pollution crisis to moving towards a more sustainable agricultural model.
Although the initial investment would be huge, advocates say that would be dwarfed by the cost of not tackling the escalating climate crisis and point to wide-ranging economic benefits in the medium term, positioning the UK at the forefront of the emerging green industries, which are expected to dominate in the coming years.
Crucially, the green new deal would tie radical environmental action to a worker-led “just transition”, where the rapid move from a carbon-based economy to a sustainable system is led by – and benefits – ordinary people. Its advocates say jobs in carbon-intensive industries would be replaced by – among others – those in wind, solar, house building and transport infrastructure.
Labour's manifesto put the green new deal at the centre of its 2019 election campaign. The idea has also been championed by leading Democratic presidential candidates in the US 2020 race. Internationally, its supporters say any such proposal must also recognise the west’s historic responsibility for the crisis - and its global nature - and support a just transition in the developing world through transfers of technology and finance, while welcoming migrants.
As shadow energy and climate secretary, before the Paris summit, I initiated a collaboration between more than 60 Labour councils across Britain to cut the UK’s carbon footprint by 10% through action in the places where Labour is in power. Before the next election there is the opportunity to build on this with more on-the-ground activism to deliver on the Paris agreement through everything from solar energy coops to community tree-planting schemes and investment in bus services. By showcasing the solutions in our communities, and seizing on the opportunity for good new jobs in every town, Labour can help build out the climate movement into the more broad-based, society-wide force that we need it to be. Only through a movement will we stop a reckless Trump trade deal, which would threaten decades of hard-won rights and protections, and pave our way back to No 10 Downing Street.
The climate crisis cannot wait until 2024. So, I will work with Labour administrations wherever they are in power – from councils, city mayors to devolved governments – as they involve communities, trade unions and businesses, to design their own pathways to zero net carbon by 2030.
We need to encourage bottom-up solutions through supporting climate assemblies and green cooperatives.
We must also be an effective opposition in parliament, holding the government to account on the basis of the pace of decarbonisation our planet needs – not the unambitious targets they have set themselves.
3. Will Labour under your leadership commit to:
• Retrofitting all UK homes [27m] and buildings by 2030 and fight to ensure all new buildings are zero carbon by the end of this parliament?
• Producing 90% of the UK’s electricity from renewable sources [through 7,000 offshore, 2,000 onshore turbines and 3x expansion of solar] by 2030?
• Producing 50% renewable heating through 8m heat pumps and investment in hydrogen?
Yes, I commissioned the expert report, Thirty by 2030 (pdf), these recommendations are based on. It gives us a real plan to not only hold the government to account on what they are failing to do – but also helps turn what can be abstract targets to most people into real, everyday changes for the better.
Insulating homes will end fuel poverty. An active industrial strategy will make sure that Britain is the producer of the wind turbines and other technologies we need for the future, creating good jobs and apprenticeships in our towns, cities and regions. The opportunities for large-scale renewal are endless – we just need to be ambitious and creative. It is a central part of how I believe Labour can sell our aspirational socialism to people across the country.
I know we need a wholesale transformation in the way we power and heat our homes and businesses but that this is possible and necessary and offers huge economic opportunities. As a windswept nation we can be the Saudi Arabia of clean energy, but all too often we are losing out on the jobs and factories to other countries with a different approach to industrial strategy and that has to change.
I fully support Labour’s Green New Deal and the proposals for a Green Transformation Fund (pdf) and a National Investment Bank (pdf). The proposals offer a pathway to a greener economy married to social justice, which our country badly needs. It should be hardwired into everything we do as a country and as a party.
4. If yes, how should this work be financed and organised?
These are huge challenges and it requires bold and ambitious thinking. We already have deepening wealth inequality in this country and a crisis in living standards. The Conservative approach has been to load costs on to households that are already struggling, while letting energy companies profiteer. We can’t have this approach if we are going to turn this into an opportunity to deliver better lives and a better Britain.
It’s why the proposal I set out at the 2019 election had public ownership and public investment in our energy system as a central plank, so we can be strategic and make sure that extra costs are not loaded on to homes that can’t afford it. For example, when it comes to insulating homes, it makes sense for the government to pay for the work upfront, and for the costs to be repaid by households who can afford it over time through savings on their energy bills. Lower-income households should not have to repay the cost of the works, so they can benefit from all the bill savings immediately. Delivering such a large programme in partnership with local communities, with local councils and public bodies playing a central role, can guarantee the quality of work to people’s homes and the quality of jobs we create.
When it comes to developing the renewable energy sector and where the public is helping to provide the investment, the public should also get a long-term stake in what are profitable enterprises. The UK, as the world’s largest offshore wind market, should have a far greater role in manufacturing the technology, creating good, skilled jobs here, rather than relying on imports, as is currently the case. We should use our public stake to make sure these projects benefit communities, with local procurement boosting local supply chains.
I would like to see a bigger role for people in every part of the country to influence and shape the transition so I’m fascinated to see what ideas will emerge from the first national citizens assembly on climate change. What’s clear is that the transition to date has not been funded fairly because low-income households have paid a disproportionately high contribution and the debate so far has been too technocratic and too driven from Brussels and Westminster. For the transition to work the solutions in the next phase must have broad support and benefit communities across the country and that’s more likely to happen if everyone can get involved.
KS (see previous answer)
5. How will you ensure the poorest people in the UK and around the world are not made to pay disproportionately for the climate crisis?
For too long in this country, too many of our communities have been ignored and seen the erosion of their local public services. We cannot tackle the climate crisis by loading the costs on to the shoulders of those just making ends meet. As leader I will continue to pursue progressive mechanisms, such as public ownership and strategic public investment in the infrastructure we need for the future, in a way that delivers our broader goals of aspirational socialism.
For example, expanding our bus networks and creating a public transport system that is integrated, accessible and affordable will improve our air quality and cut emissions, while improving regional connectivity, making life more convenient for millions.
Internationally, we need to make sure the UK is a world leader not a world lagger – as the first in the world to industrialise and one of the wealthiest, we need to reduce our emissions at a rate that takes our fair share of the global responsibility to avoid more than 1.5 degrees of warming, as well as ensuring we are doing it in a way that is just and equitable at home.
Social justice and aspiration go hand in hand with global justice. When Trump comes to this country for Cop26 Labour needs to join the voices from around the globe calling for urgent action. The poorest parts of the globe are already experiencing the worst impacts of climate breakdown, which they are least responsible for creating. That is why I support increasing the amount of international public climate finance the UK provides for mitigation and adaptation, and channelling these funds through the UN’s green climate fund, and away from the World Bank. Rather than welcome Trump to our country, we should be leading international efforts to establish a new fund to compensate countries in the global south for loss and damage suffered due to climate impacts. We can ensure the technologies developed in the UK and create jobs here through our green industrial revolution are also made available at reduced cost in the global south.
It’s a tragedy and an injustice that it is the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world who are most exposed to the impacts of the climate crisis around the world. Their voice must be heard as we debate the solutions to the crisis, not just because it’s the right thing to do but also because it will help unlock the answers to a just transition. It was Europe’s approach of working together with the small island states of the South Pacific and the vulnerable countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which built the global alliances that unlocked the Paris agreement. Britain’s leadership in international development helped to build these special relationships and shows why social justice and environmental justice go hand in hand. We should never see offsets as a cheap alternative to reducing pollution here at home and we must pay for the investments needed by ensuring the wealthiest who did most to cause the problem invest the most in fixing it, and by exploring the role that well-designed pollution taxes could play to ensure the fossil fuel industry helps clean up the mess it caused.
The Green New Deal needs to be married to social justice both domestically and internationally. Domestically we need a just transition which provides good unionised green jobs, addresses regional inequalities and does not leave workers behind. The UK has profited from burning fossil fuels in the past, so we must assist developing countries in their leap forward, skipping our bad habits, building renewables rather than coal power stations. We should use our development budget – and work for greater international financial assistance – to help developing countries grow their own low-carbon economies.
6. Do you support more new nuclear power stations after Hinkley C is completed and, if so, how will they be funded?
I support new nuclear power where it is needed for the UK’s future energy security. We need to find the right funding model that will guarantee value for money for the taxpayer and ensure any public stake is used in a way that benefits local communities.
I’m not writing my manifesto for the next general election just yet but I have argued consistently and for many years that now – right in the middle of a climate emergency – is not the time we should rule out a role for nuclear power or any other low-emission technology. The biggest challenges for the nuclear industry are the high costs associated with new nuclear stations, and their lack of a long-term sustainable solution to deal with the harmful waste they produce, but we will have to weigh these problems against the contribution nuclear power can make to meeting our energy demands in a way that creates good jobs and is consistent with building a zero-carbon economy and it is most important that we are guided by the science and the evidence on this.
I support the Labour position that nuclear power is part of the mix of moving away from fossil fuels. But our overwhelming focus must be on increasing the energy share of renewables including solar, wind and tidal energy, and with decentralised energy.
7. Do you support HS2?
Yes. The government’s mismanagement of the cost and delivery date is a national scandal, and much more needs to be done to manage the local environmental impacts. However, HS2 is needed to increase the UK’s rail capacity, reducing reliance on our roads for passengers and freeing up capacity for more freight travel. This should be part of a more ambitious programme for public transport. For example, we should be building high-speed rail down from Scotland, projects like Crossrail for the north, connections between our towns and reopening branch closures.
The government has completely mishandled the HS2 project. They have let costs spiral and failed to make the argument for the merits of the scheme. HS2 should never be allowed to justify any failure to invest in the bus networks and other clean public transport projects, which should be a higher priority than this single railway, but it should be possible to both improve the capacity of the existing rail and bus network and expand it too so yes, it should go ahead.
If we are serious about the climate emergency, we must invest in green public transport. For that to work effectively there has to be a national plan for an integrated public transport network, and HS2 should have been a part of that. I voted against HS2 because of the social and environmental impact it will have on Euston in my constituency. But the project is now inevitably going ahead, and my focus is compensation and mitigation locally. I recognise the need for connectivity in the north and Midlands but the project should have started there, not from London. HS2 should not proceed at the expense of other really important rail upgrades like Crossrail for the north.
8. Do you support or oppose the third runway at Heathrow and/or all airport expansion?
Labour was clear in our manifesto that any expansion of airports must pass our tests on air quality, noise pollution, climate change obligations and countrywide benefits, including the current proposals for Heathrow expansion. We need to be rigorous in upholding these tests; as leading scientists have again pointed out the proposals do not meet Labour’s tests, particularly on climate change and as such I do not support them.
I voted against a third runway at Heathrow because of the extraordinary environmental damage it would clearly cause, not just to our climate but to Londoners’ air quality too. I was a councillor in west London and the experiences I witnessed of people suffering from asthma was already shocking many years ago, and it absolutely can’t be allowed to get so much worse because of a failure of imagination in fixing our transport system. On airport expansion elsewhere in the country, we must be guided by the expert advice of the Committee on Climate Change in terms of what level of aviation growth could be consistent with our climate change laws and international commitments.
I voted against Heathrow expansion because of the impact on climate change. We need to be serious about the climate emergency and our commitments under the Paris agreement. I personally don’t think that’s consistent with approving airport expansion but, of course, I’ll look at any proposals and measure them against climate tests.
9. Do you back financial support specifically for rewilding projects and commit to Labour’s existing policy to create 10 new national nature parks; rewild the 10 existing national parks and create “natural corridors” in the form of local parks, walking pathways, cycling lanes and canals?
Yes. These are examples of actions we need to take to tackle the climate crisis, but will also make our cities, towns and local communities nicer and healthier places to live, bringing public luxury to the spaces and services we care about.
Tackling the climate emergency needs to go hand-in-hand with restoring our natural environment. Our country is one of the least wooded in the whole of Europe, and yet we know that trees lock up carbon, provide vital habitat for wildlife, and improve air quality in towns and cities. I also believe that every child deserves to have access to trees and green spaces as they grow up, wherever they live and whatever their parents’ income.
So I would absolutely create 10 new national nature parks and back natural corridors. I would also enable more people to take control of the management of their local parks, and ensure that local government had the powers and funding to maintain them.
Rewilding is something I think we need to explore with local communities in the places where schemes like this might go forward. I am convinced we can find the right mixture of natural regeneration, new tree-planting and support for sustainable farming in this country, but to do so we first need to see off the risks of a Trump trade deal that would sacrifice environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards and throw many UK farmers on the scrapheap.
Rewilding is an essential part of the fightback against the climate and environmental emergency. I support ambitious tree-planting schemes and new nature parks to halt the devastating loss of biodiversity and to help in the fight against air pollution which plagues our streets. Our children are breathing toxic air in 71% of UK towns and cities - this is a national scandal and more green spaces must be part of the solution.
10. Do you support a post-Brexit agricultural subsidy regime to support environmental schemes such as tree planting, soil and peat restoration and flood protection? Should that funding be at least £1bn a year, ie a third of the current EU CAP scheme?
I support maintaining the current level of funding support to British farming and farmland management. However, I will pursue a “public money for public goods” approach, and would want to see agricultural subsidies conditioned on sustainable land use practices like tree planting, soil and peat restoration, flood protection and biodiversity promotion. Under my leadership, Labour would invest in forestation and landscape restoration, for example, our commitment to invest £3.7bn over a decade in tree planting, but this funding would be additional to payments in the agricultural subsidy regime.
It’s bonkers that millionaires on the rich list are still raking in vast subsidies of taxpayers’ cash from farm subsidies. Investing public money should always be about securing public goods, not offering backdoor handouts to wealthy Tory donors. Our farmers will need to play a crucial role in restoring nature, storing carbon to cut emissions, and growing healthy and sustainable food, and these are public goods our subsidy regime should be helping us to meet. With Boris Johnson pursuing such a hard Brexit, there is a real risk that these goals could be undermined in the pursuit of a low-standards, reckless trade deal with Trump and we must fight that every step of the way.
Trees, soil, and peat are natural carbon sinks so restoring and replanting them will be key to our aims of net zero carbon emissions. As the recent floods across much of England and Wales demonstrate, the UK’s flood protections are already insufficient, and the worsening climate crisis promises even more violent weather and rising sea levels. Significant investment in flood defences is therefore a priority to mitigate the worse effects of climate change.
11. Do you support the implementation of policies to reduce red meat consumption in the UK? If so what form might that take?
Growing numbers of people are cutting down on red meat, or becoming vegetarian and vegan, as people think about the environment and their health. It’s been really positive how we’ve seen businesses respond to that growing demand in producing substitutes for old favourites like the sausage roll. Too often the green movement has been painted as telling people what they can and can’t do. We need to find a different way of having discussions as a country on these issues while not losing focus on the most urgent questions facing us. Fighting climate change is about key players across the world coming together to collectively address the challenge we face, and working out in this country how we can restructure our economy so that it is both sustainable and able to support a high quality of life for everyone.
The priority for governments must be to focus on the biggest driver of emissions, which is the global fossil fuel industry; but the Committee on Climate Change has made it clear that we also need to think about how we manage our land and produce our food.
In my view this is not about telling people what to eat – it’s about tackling food waste, working with farmers to reduce pollution from things like artificial fertilisers and pesticides, and protecting high-quality food production in the UK from the impacts of reckless trade deals. I also think we have to have a much stronger focus on food poverty. Children going to school hungry in one of the richest countries in the world is both heart-breaking and shameful.
After fossil fuels, the food industry – particularly the meat and dairy sector – is one of the most significant contributors to climate change and, in many countries, to deforestation. All of us should therefore think about how we might reduce our consumption of red meat. But changes in behaviour, important as they are, should not distract us from the systemic nature of the problem of climate change. That’s why I support Labour’s plans for a radical Green New Deal to combat the climate and environmental emergency.
12. Do you support a frequent flyer tax to reduce air travel?
At the moment the vast majority of the population fly once a year or less – they shouldn’t be unfairly taxed. We don’t want to penalise or make it harder for people to go on holiday. But it is right to consider how we ask wealthy frequent flyers to shoulder more responsibility, or reduce the frequency of their flights. In government as Labour leader I would ensure we review aviation taxation and consider and consult on the development and implementation of proposals recommended by the Committee on Climate Change.
It cannot be right that when 70% of flights are taken by just 15% of the public, the wealthiest people who are polluting the most do not pay a level of tax to reflect this and instead pay the same as the family taking their hard-earned rest once a year, so yes as prime minister I would look to make the system fairer and greener.
Air travel is a particularly fossil fuel-intensive form of travel so, especially while we do not have the technology for green flights, we should encourage people to use alternative forms of transport where possible. We need to make sure that our tax system encourages that.
13. Will you commit to greater funding for public transport, cycling and walking than for road building?
Yes. We need greater funding for and an expansion of public transport, cycling and walking for all sorts of reasons – not just in tackling the climate crisis, but to improve our economy, the connections between cities and towns, and rural areas, making our public transport more accessible and to encourage healthier lives and cleaner air.
It is absolutely scandalous that when 60% of journeys are by bus, literally thousands of local bus routes have been cut since the Tories came back to power, hundreds just in the last year, and fares have been allowed to rocket too. I would invest properly in public transport – and yes nationalise the railways, but also give councils the power to run bus routes for people not profit so they can set the fares and the routes and ensure all the buses in the fleet are zero carbon by 2025. I know that where Labour is in power, our mayors and councils are paving the way on cycling and as a result the number of cyclists is going up, so I would work with them to ensure communities get the investment they need to build on these successes.
The government has made a political choice to spend transport budgets on roads rather than greener and cheaper forms of transport. I would lead a Labour government with different priorities: building a more sustainable, affordable, accessible and integrated transport system – with investment in bus services, renationalisation of our railways, and support for cycling and pedestrians.
14. Do you back clean air zones that charge or ban polluting vehicles in urban areas, which government research shows are the most effective policy to reduce air pollution?
Yes, I support a new Clean Air Act enshrining the World Health Organization’s advisory air quality standards into domestic law. This would include clean air zones around schools. I was proud to announce Labour’s electric car revolution at Labour conference last year, setting out how an industrial strategy can support the sector to transition to manufacturing electric vehicles and batteries, and proposing creative measures such as electric community car clubs. So alongside an expansion in public transport we are also ensuring that we are transitioning over to zero emission vehicles, and that transition supports jobs and industries here in Britain.
It is truly shocking that one in 19 deaths in our largest cities and towns are linked to air pollution when we can and should do much more to prevent this. In London, Oxford, Reading and most of the south-east, levels are above the limits recognised as safe by the World Health Organization and on some days many kids can’t even play outside in their school playgrounds without a high risk of suffering an asthma attack caused by the toxic state of the air. Labour in local government is leading the way on tackling this through schemes like [London mayor Sadiq Khan’s] Ulez [ultra-low emission zone] and [Bristol mayor Marvin Rees’s] diesel ban in Bristol. We need the new clean air legislation expected this year to ensure our air is healthy to breathe, in line with WHO advice, and to bolster the strong local government action Labour is leading.
Air pollution already contributes to over 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK, and is particularly damaging to the health of our children, who are breathing unsafe levels of air pollution in 71% of our towns and cities. That’s why I’ve called for an immediate Clean Air Act to tackle air pollution by creating clean air zones.
15. The Committee on Climate Change says the UK is unprepared for the impacts of climate change. Will you increase funding for adaptation and what policies do you support to prepare for the inevitable increases in flooding, heatwaves and summer water shortages?
Yes. I stand by Labour’s 2019 commitment to invest an additional £5.6bn to level up flood defences over 10 years, paid for through public capital investment. The new fund will prioritise areas of need, particularly in regions such as the north-west, Yorkshire and the east Midlands that have been neglected under the Tories.
Climate change will place huge pressures on our freshwater resources. But the UK’s privatised water companies have done a terrible job managing that resource, with only 14% of rivers safe for swimming, record fines issued for sewage leaks, and 20-25% of our water wasted before it even reaches our taps. That is why managing our water security in a warming climate will require publicly owned, democratically accountable water companies.
Better insulated homes, delivered through Labour’s mass retrofitting programme, will be better adapted to extreme summer heat as well as keeping us warm in winter.
Short-term Tory cuts to flood budgets left scars on communities across the country and are one of the worst impacts of their damaging austerity programme. We’re lucky to have some of the foremost experts in the entire world in the Met Office, the Committee on Climate Change, and in many of our universities, to advise us on what we should do to prepare for climate change and so we should heed their advice about what dangerous impacts we must prepare for to ensure we are limiting the damage from worsening extreme weather wherever we can and that means properly investing in flood defences.
As demonstrated by the recent flooding of much of England and Wales and the fact that the last five years have been the hottest five years on record, the effects of climate breakdown have already begun. Mitigating those effects will be essential and funding needs to match our new needs – but it should not distract from our absolute commitment to prevention through urgent emission reductions and a Green New Deal.
16. What direct diplomacy should Labour undertake with international partners to help make Cop26 a success?
The eyes of the world will be on us at Cop26; we need to show them we reject those who deny the climate crisis or continue to fail to act on its urgency. World leaders have to heed the warnings of young climate activists whose future is at stake; the world is increasingly in flames as we have seen in the Amazon, California, Australia and in Scotland last spring. As Labour leader I will work directly with our sister parties in Europe and across the world, both in power and in opposition, to help make sure an ambitious set of demands and commitments are agreed at Cop26.
I was proud to lead Labour’s international delegation to the historic Paris summit and to meet the civil society leaders and diplomats who worked so tirelessly to secure that deal. So I know how precious and hard-won it was and is and why it is essential we now defend it and see it implemented in full.
Across the world it is gutsy, young women like the prime ministers of Finland and New Zealand, who are carrying the hopes and dreams of Greta and the youth movement into the global diplomatic arena and making strides forward and if I am prime minister I promise to join them.
Ahead of the Cop26 summit in Scotland later this year, there is an opportunity for Labour to build on the initiative I kick-started five years ago to showcase climate solutions where we are in power in local government, city halls and the Welsh assembly and to share the learning from these experiences internationally, as I know Sadiq has been doing with London’s experiences through the C40 network of cities who helped secure the Paris agreement.
We know that climate change is an unavoidably international problem. So we must match our efforts for a Green New Deal at home with our efforts abroad. The UK should use our Cop26 presidency to build and lead an international net-zero coalition. On 8 March 2020, I’m meeting with activists and experts in Birmingham to begin co-designing the demands that we think the Labour party should make of our government and of governments around the world at Cop26. We will be there in Glasgow alongside our European sister parties to hold governments to account for future generations.
17. Would you support a progressive alliance with the Liberal Democrats, SNP, Greens and Plaid Cymru around climate action and backing for a green new deal?
Labour’s green industrial revolution is one of the most ambitious policy platforms in the world for how a country can decarbonise and be sustainable. It can be a rallying call for the concrete demands we need to implement to meet our climate targets, and put the achievement of social justice and the creation of good, unionised jobs at its heart. I will work with anyone who supports those demands in parliament, across our trade unions, the labour movement, civil society and activists. As Labour leader I will make sure that Labour is part of the coalition keeping this issue high on the political agenda and will resist any moves to restrict the civil liberties of peaceful activists and campaigners ahead of Cop26. At Cop26 I think Labour should push for the UK to adopt more ambitious national targets on climate change, to provide increased levels of public climate finance, and to lead international efforts to establish a new fund for loss and damage.
I have seen the leadership [Green party MP] Caroline Lucas has brought to the climate debate, and I know that like me she has championed a Green New Deal so yes of course I would work with her and MPs from all parties to make it a reality.
We need a Labour government to implement a Green New Deal, hardwired into all our policies to mitigate the damage of climate and environmental breakdown, while empowering communities and creating good, green jobs across the country. Every community deserves the right to vote for a Labour government. But we will work with other parties in parliament where they share our aims.