The Labour Party has recognised the dangers of Climate Change for at least 20 years. In 1999, Labour Environment Secretary Michael Meacher said: “This is beginning to look like (Climate Change) has quite serious impacts. Globally, 1998 was the hottest year ever recorded, and seven out of the 10 hottest years ever recorded have fallen in the last decade.” He sponsored an EDM and Climate Change Bill in 2005 that eventually became the Climate Change Act of 2008. This set up the Climate Change Committee and committed the UK to a reduction in emissions of 80% (over 1990 levels) by 2050.
In 2009, Labour MP Colin Challen, Chair of the all party group on Climate Change, sponsored EDM 2057, signed by John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and Dianne Abbott, asking “That this House recognises that there is a climate emergency and that the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate represents the greatest threat that humanity faces.” It called for a number of radical measures, including the cessation of all domestic flights, and the creation of a million green jobs by the end of 2010. John McDonnell retabled a slightly modified version in 2012, which “remains the most radical statement on climate change within a parliamentary context” (Campaign against Climate Change).
In 2013 Labour narrowly failed to introduce a target to decarbonise the UK electricity supply by 2030 into the Energy Bill, and restated this commitment in their 2015 General Election Manifesto.
In September 2018 Rebecca Long-Bailey, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, announced that at least 60% of energy should be generated from renewable and low carbon sources by 2030 (85% Electricity and 44% Heat), and that heat demand should be reduced by 23%. This is disappointing and a long way from John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn’s wish in 2009 to declare a ‘Climate Emergency’and the ever more urgent need to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2030.