A week ago Jeremy Corbyn visited the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales; a site that looks more like the survivors camp from a dystopian movie than a bright vision of the future. I suppose it is apt then that this is where he once again announced plans for his green industrial revolution - a sweeping programme of nationalisation, market restrictions and public spending. It might not send us straight back to the stone age, but it would result in years of unnecessary economic hardship, stagnation, and a higher bill for families and taxpayers.
It is ironic that while Labour argues that business executives and not consumers should be blamed for this ‘climate emergency’ their policies would leave consumers worse off and shoulder a heavy burden onto the taxpayer. Labour’s focus though is not on solving environmental problems in a way that results in high living standards for everybody. Sadly it's much more spiteful than that. It’s mostly about concocting schemes that will destroy a perceived ‘few’ — they don’t care about the fact they’ll be making the ‘many’ worse off at the same time.
Much of Jeremy Corbyn’s plan for a Green Industrial Revolution is explained in The Green Transformation. Unlike the original Industrial Revolution where entrepreneurs drove advances in technology that brought efficiency and higher living standards than ever seen before, Labour’s vision is one of austere state socialism set up to pounce on the political popularity of Extinction Rebellion. Throughout the document you see Labour’s commitment to ideology rather than improving the lives of the people and their environment. Their promise to 'work with unions' (read: be captive to them) will certainly result in schemes that work for union leaders and not for workers or consumers.
Corbyn’s calls for public ownership of water, railways (both passenger and freight) and energy (transmission and distribution) — far from giving utilities back to the people are some of the greatest risks to consumers, our pensions, and the environment. Large scale public ownership of schemes would likely harken back to the 1970s with publicly owned industries weighed down by union demands. The grim memories of the winter of discontent would once again by a present reality. The future for the energy industry would be much like those industries of the 1970s; stagnating due to the lack of a profit motive, underperforming, over budget and resulting in higher prices for consumers. After all of this however, millions will still have the excitement of finding that their pensions, which were invested into these industries, have been decimated as well. Their £250 billion "National Transformation Fund" also sounds like a public finance black hole if you have ever heard of one which taxpayers will have the privilege of funding.
It’s also nice to see, in the middle of a housing crisis, Labour trying to restrict the supply of housing making it harder to for people to find an affordable home. Their suggestion to "block poorly insulated homes from being rented out" does just that. Their "zero-carbon home standard for new build homes" also creates another barrier to increasing the supply of desperately needed homes. But do not forget Labour's generosity as they propose that their new insulation scheme will save UK households a massive £275 a year. This is, of course, until you have to pay for the scheme through taxes which will probably involve insulating your house at above the current market rate. Their “land for the many” is even worse... but I’ll save that for another post.
Beyond particularly damaging policies; their environmental posturing is misinformed, too often contradictory, and based on class prejudice. A recent call for an end to heather rotational burning demonstrates how their contempt for a section of society they hate is more important than effective land management (heather burning is a process of careful and effective environmental management). You can only expect them to cry and strop when their independent review into grouse shooting proves that it has a positive impact on the environment and provides jobs and money for rural communities. As and when it does, don’t be too surprised if politicians chasing cheap votes ignore it and plow on with a ban anyway, its not like we’ve seen that one before...
And we shouldn’t forget Labour’s proposal to renationalise British steel handily forgetting the site burns through enormous amounts of coal to run its operation. I must have forgotten that nationalising carbon emissions makes them suddenly have no impact on the environment. Another example of how labour is more concerned about pursuing its vision of socialism rather than effective environmental protection.
There were, however, some good things we were able to extract from "The Green Transformation".
Labour recognises the opportunity to "review the allocation of UK fishing quota to promote the most sustainable fishing practices, in a way that benefits coastal communities and the small-scale fishing fleet." We would like to point them towards our market-based solution here.
Their claims to remove barriers to onshore wind will help to allow the market mechanism to work. The average costs of energy consumption for wind and solar (Thin film and crystalline Utility scale) are cheaper than conventional energy sources (here) when taking construction cost and lifetimes of generators into account. Thus, because these costs are lower for renewable energy compared to non-renewables we will eventually see an almost total use of these non-renewable energies as the old generators depreciate.
Sadly, however, it is unlikely that Labour would embrace these market based methods to help deal with these environmental problems. Labour’s policies for the environment is simply socialism made to look green.