Resource Use

Labour aims to make UK economy the ‘most resource-efficient in the world’

The Labour Party has today (20 April) stated that it would make the UK the ‘most resource-efficient economy in the world’ and undertake a review of resource security to ‘create confidence in the long-term demand for recycled material’, if it were voted into power after the General Election on 7 May.

Labour aims to make UK economy the ‘most resource-efficient in the world’

The commitment for a review, stated in the party’s Green Plan for 2015, reiterates Labour’s previous commitment to undertake a Stern-style review to acquire data on resource security and help support investment in domestic recycling and reprocessing capacity.

It reads: ‘The next Labour Government will undertake a review of resource security to unlock the economic opportunities from using our resources more efficiently. This review will be led by the Treasury and it will galvanise real action across Whitehall, business and local government. Labour’s approach will create confidence in the long-term demand for recycled material, encouraging more investment, boosting growth and high-skilled jobs and improving resource security. Action on resource security will also deliver the stability we need across our economy by reducing our exposure to volatile raw materials prices.’

The plan also outlines that a Labour government would establish an independent national infrastructure commission to ‘identify Britain’s long-term infrastructure needs and monitor the plans developed by government to meet them’, alongside national infrastructure goals, which will include ‘making the UK the most resource and energy efficient economy in the world’.

The pledges come less than a week after the release of the Labour Party’s manifesto, ‘Britain can be better’, which received criticism from the waste and resources industry for not touching on resource use at all.

Climate and energy recommendations

As well as reviewing resource use, the Green Plan also highlights a range of actions the Labour Party would undertake on energy and climate change (some of which were also contained in the manifesto).

These include:

  • developing an ‘active green industrial strategy’ to create a million new green jobs; expanding the role of the Department for International Development to mitigate the risks of a changing climate, and support ‘sustainable livelihoods for the world’s poorest people’;
  • working for an ‘ambitious global agreement on climate change’ in Paris later this year, with ‘ambitious emissions targets for all countries, strengthened every five years and a goal of net zero global emissions in the second half of this century’;
  • setting a legally-binding target to decarbonise the electricity supply by 2030;
  • delivering energy efficiency upgrades to at least five million homes over 10 years;
  • ensuring a 'robust environmental and regulatory regime' for the extraction of shale gas before it can take place;
  • introducing a new domestic climate change adaptation programme to protect homes and businesses from extreme weather;
  • asking the Committee on Climate Change, with help from the National Grid, to advise on the measures needed to maximise green gas;
  • giving the Green Investment Bank borrowing powers;
  • enabling individuals and communities to invest in clean energy and other low-carbon technologies through new green bonds;
  • planting new woodland and trees closer to where more people live;
  • tackling air pollution by devolving power and supporting local authorities to take action;
  • delivering a network of Marine Conservation Zones around the UK.

Economic success cannot be built by eroding our natural environment’

Writing in the foreword to the plan, Labour Leader Ed Miliband, former Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Caroline Flint, and former Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Maria Eagle, jointly state: ‘The transition to a low carbon economy is also a huge opportunity for Britain, with the potential to be a major source of jobs and growth. The last Labour Government was the first in the world to put carbon reduction targets into law, spurring investment and creating markets for thousands of British companies. The next Labour Government will commit Britain to decarbonising our electricity supply by 2030 to give business certainty to invest so we can create a million green jobs over the next decade and invest in green technology and green infrastructure to power Britain’s economy forward into the future…

‘The fundamental truth that runs through Labour’s manifesto and this Green Plan is that Britain succeeds when working people succeed. Our economic success cannot be built by eroding our natural environment any more than it can by eroding wages or living standards.’

Green Plan ‘a last minute attempt to grab green headlines’

The launch of the Green Plan has been criticised by other political parties, however, with the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) stating that it is ‘a last minute attempt to grab green headlines’.

The party stated: ‘Labour have been silent on green issues and no one should be fooled by their new promises.

‘Labour should be judged by their record, which is more Brown than green. They lobbied for a third runway at Heathrow, pushed a new coal power plant at Kingsnorth and left office with renewables contributing just five per cent of energy supply.’

Despite this, the Lib Dem and Labour party policies on resource use, energy and climate change are fairly closely aligned, with the Lib Dems also setting out plans to deliver a Stern-style review on resource use/security, encouraging the use of biogas, and setting a legally-binding decarbonisation target range for 2030. However, the Lib Dem manifesto goes slightly further on resource use, stating that the party would also bring in a 70 per cent recycling target in England, and reinstating the landfill tax escalator.

Green campaigning group Friends of the Earth, meanwhile, has welcomed aspects of Labour’s Green Plan, while criticising its failure to oppose shale gas exploitation. Friends of the Earth’s Head of Politics, Liz Hutchins, said: “Labour’s green vision contains a number of encouraging policies… But Labour is still wrong to support fracking. Although its promise that fracking won’t undermine UK climate change commitments is a step forward, it should at least commit to a total moratorium until government climate experts report on the risks next year.”

Environmental campaigning body Greenpeace also criticised the fracking element of the Green Plan, with Greenpeace UK’s Chief Scientist, Dr Doug Parr, stating: “Labour’s green manifesto hits some real high notes by putting energy efficiency, grassroots energy, and ambitious targets to slash carbon emissions at the heart of the party’s vision. But this harmonious chorus is somewhat spoilt by a howling bum note: the party’s continued support for fracking, albeit conditional on tougher rules. Over 140 Labour candidates have already promised to oppose this controversial industry in their constituencies. They’ve listened to voters’ concerns. Now it’s time for Labour HQ to listen to its foot soldiers.”

Read Labour’s newly-released Green Plan, or find out more about the Labour Party and Liberal Democrat manifestos.

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