Britain  •  Environment

Will GB Energy have the power to tackle climate change?

08 June 2024
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By Jeremy Dewar

GREAT BRITISH Energy will be set up with £8.3 billion, financed by a windfall tax on power generating companies, to invest in ‘clean energy’. But Keir Starmer has been keen to emphasise that this would be ‘an investment vehicle, not an energy company’. GB Energy would ‘partner with the private sector’ to accelerate wind, solar, tidal, nuclear and hydrogen renewable energy production, offering £1 public finance for every £3 of private money.

Labour claims that with its Green Prosperity Plan the UK could run entirely on carbon net zero energy by 2030, creating ‘650,000 new, skilled jobs’ in the process; Britain could meet its internationally binding commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 68%.

State provides, market decides?

But its plan is almost certain to fail because it is chained to the vagaries of the market and the profit motive that underpins capitalist production. Rachel Reeves reacted to the recession in the second half of 2023 by slashing Labour’s £28 billion a year funding for green projects to just £6.5 billion. Future economic crises could blow the plan completely out of the water.

And of course private ‘partners’, contributing three-quarters of the capital, will be firmly in the driving seat. They will control the pace and scale of investment, the pay and conditions of workers and they will demand a healthy profit for doing so. Also new technologies tend to employ less labour, so the new jobs are likely to be fewer than the old jobs, under capitalism that is. Huge job losses at Tata Steel prove this.

Labour doesn’t even plan to end fossil fuel energy production. Oil and gas power stations ‘will continue for decades to come’, according to Starmer. Not one of the hundreds of new exploration licences recklessly issued by the Tories will be revoked. Carbon capture has never been proven to work at the scale needed to reduce the impact of this.

And finally Labour has no plan to meet its global financial obligation to fund transition in the Global South. It will not raise Britain’s overseas development fund above the 0.7% of GDP that the Tories reduced it to. Climate change, already above 1.5C, is an international problem and rich nations like Britain that caused the crisis have to foot the bill for poorer nations if we are to bequeath a cleaner, greener planet to our children.

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