Jeremy Corbyn’s Environment and Energy policy is a fleshed out version of the policy he announced last year. It shows Corbyn at his most radical and visionary. Anyone who cares about the future of human civilisation should read it and rally to the Labour Party to make it a reality.
Corbyn’s broad vision is to solve the climate crisis whilst maintaining 21st century level of material wealth and abundance. His proposed National Investment bank will provide £500 billion of investment, creating 300,000 green jobs that will “accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy”.
The plans are ambitious and comprehensive. They include: education programmes to train up a new generation of workers, strategies to help decarbonise carbon-intensive industries, diversification of local economies and job protection for those dependent on carbon-intensive industries, and extensive government backed R&D.
The plans include addressing waste through a massive tree-planting initiative, a home-building and insulating programme and the development of clean energy storage. The policy is concerned with the human costs of environmental degradation. It proposes plans to tackle air pollution, reduce fuel poverty and allow greater access to nature. Significantly it pledges to “use a precautionary principle to protect the environment and people from harm — not a pay-to-pollute approach allowing the richest corporations and individuals to wreck our planet.”
There are things that we might criticise. The Corbyn plan makes no mention of nuclear energy — a little short-sighted. Scientists the world over are racing to make the next generation of nuclear power plants.In the USA, China, India and Scandanavia there are projects that are tantalisingly close to producing safe, clean, non-weaponisable nuclear energy for the mass market. There is no reason why nuclear should not be part of the picture.
More importantly, the vague pledge to “socialise” the big six energy companies from last year’s leadership race has been replaced with a pledge to promote over 200 non-profit “local energy companies” and 1,000 cooperatives via the National Investment Bank. It is unclear by what mechanism power will pass from the big six to these micro-generators. It is conceivable that tough regulation and the commitment to ensure a just transition for energy workers, will facilitate the downfall of the big six. But why not simply nationalise these firms and place them under worker and community control from the outset?
Instead of a National Investment Bank with capital generated from government debt, why not simply nationalise the privately owned banks? Despite these shortfalls, the greater danger is avoided. Environmental politics, specifically the type promoted by the Green Party, is riddled with primitivist neo-Malthusian myths about greedy humanity and resource depletion. Corbyn counters this with policy that asserts the compatibility of sustainability and abundance.
With planned waste management and a zero-carbon energy supply, our species could manipulate the earth’s resources any which way it likes, whilst avoiding catastrophic climate change. Private ownership of the means of production, an economy run for profit, is the big obstacle to this rational use of resources. Corbyn’s environmental plan point us in the right direction to challenge the command of capital over our environment and future.