Sir Keir Starmer has called for a “clean power alliance” of countries at the forefront of climate ambition to accelerate action and bring down energy prices.
The Labour leader also criticised Rishi Sunak’s absence at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and said his own attendance alongside shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves is a “statement of intent” of the UK’s increased presence on the global stage under a Labour government.
Speaking in a panel discussion on “repowering the world,” Sir Keir set out his vision for an international alliance that would operate as an “inverse Opec”, referring to the cartel of oil-producing countries.
He said: “One of the things that I am proposing is a clean power alliance where countries that are in the advance when it comes to net-zero share information, co-operate and share investment with a view to driving the global prices down.
“So, this is an inverse Opec, if you like. Instead of trying to ensure prices stay at a certain level, it’s to drive them down, to see the common benefit, whether it’s in the UK or across the globe.
“If we could get that alliance working together, then I think that will be a big step in the right direction.”
Sir Keir has pledged to make the UK a clean energy superpower by 2030 and create a publicly-owned energy company within Labour’s first year in office.
He said that under a Labour government, there would be no new investment in oil and gas.
“What we’ve said about oil and gas is there does need to be a transition.
“Obviously, it will play its part during that transition, but not new investment, not new fields up in the North Sea, because we need to go towards net-zero, we need to ensure that renewable energy is where we go next.”
Sir Keir was joined on the panel by speakers including Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and US Senator Joe Manchin.
Neither Mr Sunak nor Chancellor Jeremy Hunt are attending the annual gathering of international movers and shakers in the exclusive Swiss ski resort, although the Government is being represented by Business Secretary Grant Shapps and International Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch.
Sir Keir said: “I think our Prime Minister should have showed up at Davos.
“One of the things that’s been impressed on me since I’ve been here is the absence of the United Kingdom.
“That’s why it’s really important that I’m here and that our shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves is here as a statement of intent that should there be a change of government – and I hope there will be – the United Kingdom will play its part on the global stage in a way I think it probably hasn’t in recent years.”
Downing Street said Mr Sunak “continues to focus on delivering for the British people” as he made a series of visits across the north of England to highlight his £2.1 billion levelling-up spending.
A No 10 spokesman said: “I’d also point to the fact we’ve been actively represented in Davos by the Business Sec and the Trade Sec who were there to build relationships with other countries around the world while making sure the UK’s voice is heard.”
He pointed towards the Cop27 climate summit and G20 conference among other events to argue “we are active on the international stage and we will continue to be”.
The Labour leader also blamed the UK’s economic woes on the lack of a strategic plan for growth and a “sense of instability and drift” caused by the recent turmoil in the Tory party.
He said: “We’ve got all the attributes for investment, we just need to create the circumstances, the environment in which we can change around what I think is the drift.
“The fact that our Prime Minister is not here I think is evidence of the drift. And we intend to reverse that.”
Ms Reeves used her appearance at Davos to “send a message” that under Labour “the British economy will be open for business again”.
“Part of that is sorting out some of the mess of the Brexit deal of a couple of years ago, which has seen our exports fall and jobs move abroad in many cases,” she said.
Echoing Sir Keir’s criticism of the absent Mr Sunak and Mr Hunt, she said: “Somebody has got to be an ambassador for Britain, and the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of my country are not here.
“Labour want to form the next government and so we think it’s really important to be here talking to business and investors about our plans for the future.”