Dr Julia Meaton

Centre for Sustainability, Responsibility, Governance and Ethics

Environment expert Dr Julia Meaton comments on Jeremy Corbyn’s conference announcement that a Labour Government would “kickstart a green jobs revolution” and whether his plans will make a difference.

“Jeremy Corbyn’s conference speech put the environment right back at the heart of politics.  The bold plans for a low carbon Britain outlined in the speech have been hailed by Greenpeace as a serious attempt to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.  The focus on new technologies and subsidies for solar and wind energy and the commitment to reduce the UK’s net carbon emissions by 60% by 2030, and to zero by 2050, represent ambitious and desperately needed policies.  Only if these are successful will the UK be on track to meet the Paris Agreement targets.  The Brexit circus has meant that the government has been distracted from environmental issues, and Corbyn’s plans fill a policy vacuum and are being universally welcomed by most environmentalists.  However, the practical challenges of delivering on these bold plans, should Labour win power, are immense.  These challenges will be even greater following Brexit.  The EU has been the main driver of environmental improvement for the last 25 years and once the UK leaves, we will need a strong and committed leader who will not allow environmental imperatives to be trumped – no pun intended – by short-term economic gains.

The UK is underperforming on various environmental metrics – with serious implications.  The UK’s air quality is so poor that experts believe that 40,000 people die prematurely as a result, and the UK has been referred to the European Court of Justice for failing to tackle these illegal levels.  The country needs to take its environmental responsibilities seriously, but even Corbyn supports airport expansion, which will have serious air quality impacts.

Could a Corbyn Labour government be the first to prioritise the environment?  The only effective way of meeting our ethical and legal environmental obligations is to mainstream them.  No longer can the environment be seen as a ‘bolt on’ or a niche area, and the persistent belief that environmental regulations and strong business growth are incompatible must be laid to rest.

Labour’s new green vision is welcomed, and the speech demonstrates the right direction of travel, but the party will have some uncomfortable and potentially unpopular choices to make should Corbyn make it to number 10.”

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