On 29 June, a Labour spokesperson said that while Starmer “had supported” the 2019 Green New Deal policy, he would not commit to retaining the policy, and that the party’s position would be decided in “4 or 5 years” with the next manifesto.
This should ring serious alarm bells for the left and environmentalists, and reminds us of the need for an organised and vocal left Labour membership to hold leadership to account.
In a general sense, the comments from Starmer’s team show a clear lack of respect for party democracy. The motion passed overwhelmingly at 2019 conference called for “net-zero carbon emissions by 2030”, already scaled down by union and party bureaucrats from the member-written motion for “zero carbon emissions” by the same date. Other key policies in that passed motion included “repeal[ing] all anti-union laws, facilitating worker-led activism over social and political issues” and “free or affordable green public transport”.
As Starmer moves the party to the right, this crucial issue demands that we advocate for the sovereignty of Labour Conference.
The recent comments are disappointing also as they reveal the continued attitude of leadership that policies are only for election time, not to be campaigned for in between. Just as Starmer’s “support” for the BLM movement has been weak, this same attitude denies the potential wins that can be achieved outside parliament to fight climate change through organised workers’ action.
The implication that we must wait for a Labour government to tackle the climate crisis is a farce and only distances the Labour Party from the climate movement.
With the impacts of fossil fuel capitalism being passed on to the working class both in the UK and, to an even worse extent in the Global South, the Labour leadership must wake up to the urgency of the climate crisis. Thousands of jobs are being lost in North Sea oil, while the limited renewables sector is known for lack of union recognition and poor employment.
The left needs to build on the climate movement of 2019 to present an alternative based on an internationalist, environmental socialism.