The news today that the government is considering shifting green levies from electricity to gas supplies is welcome in the long term. In the short term it needs careful planning – and a positive message for people already struggling with energy bills and fearful for the coming winter. Is it also an opportunity for Labour to seize the agenda?
Plans for a ‘national mission’, investing £6 billion to upgrade 19 million homes over the next decade is a good start – but it is not enough to persuade. The key phrase at the conference was the ‘just transition’ – a commitment not just to make the country greener but to do it in a way that means the disadvantaged are not left behind, creating good jobs – well paid and unionised, according to speakers, who already had concerns that low prices in the renewables sector were being achieved at the cost of poor pay and conditions for workers.
A strong narrative now that is needed so that the switch from fossil to green heating – of whatever type – is seen as an opportunity and not a threat. If Labour can make that an opportunity and not a threat it may have at least part of the vision it has to present to voters if it is to be elected.
A home for Net Zero
Interestingly, the right place for Net Zero responsibilities was also under discussion at the Labour conference. The answer that came from more than one speaker at fringe events, including Matthew Pennycook, shadow minister for climate change, was that it should be brought into the Cabinet Office. That would tally with Labour’s promise to put a Net Zero test at the heart of policymaking. New Power has argued that the Treasury is the place – most important is that it be central and apply everywhere.
Where does a Ministry for Climate Change belong?