By taking to the streets today to make their voices heard, young people are educating us about how important tackling climate change is to their generation. They are right to be worried about what kind of planet they will inherit and right to demand far-reaching action. Governments cannot sit back, leaving major decisions to market forces. It hasn’t worked and it never will. Polluting corporations will never do anything serious to solve the crisis.
Climate change presents terrible risks. But because it demands such massive change and government action, it’s also an opportunity to transform our economy, making it cleaner, healthier and fairer. Labour already has among the most ambitions carbon reduction targets in Europe and radical plans to create a zero-carbon emission economy by 2050. We plan to achieve that by ushering in a “green industrial revolution”.
We have the plans to create hundreds of thousands of well-paid jobs in the renewable energy sector. That will help meet our target of 60% of energy to come from low-carbon sources within 12 years. The next generation will be trained in the skills needed to work in offshore wind, tidal lagoons and solar energy. Transport currently accounts for a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. By investing in public transport and cycle paths we will reduce our reliance on carbon-emitting vehicles. All new homes built will be zero-carbon too.
The UK is home to some of the least populated areas of Europe, and under a green industrial revolution they will be allowed to thrive, not destroyed. Every national and local park in this country has been a victory won by communities through struggle. In the 1930s, working-class people staged a mass protest fighting their way up Kinder Scout in Derbyshire to fight for the “right to roam”, paving the way for the establishment of our national parks years later by a Labour government. And it was Labour’s postwar prime minister Clement Attlee who said that the countryside was not just “a means of producing food, but part of our great national heritage of beauty”. Building on this legacy, a Labour government will ensure that farming conserves and creates safe habitats for birds, insects and other wild animals, and encourages the growth of wildflowers.
Labour has a strong record of international leadership on the environment, and action on climate change will be at the heart of our development and trade policies. We have a role not just in protecting and promoting biodiversity in the UK but protecting it in other countries and in the oceans that connect us. It’s past time all of us stopped looking the other way, learn from the passion and wisdom of young people and join them in actively organising for a better future.