Labour's U-turn on climate pledges has pushed me to consider leaving the partyThe Labour Party / Flickr

In a report published last month, the Climate Change Committee – a watchdog that advises the UK government on climate policy – warned that the UK is ever further from reaching its climate commitments, and is sending “mixed messages” to the international community. And yet, Keir Starmer, the likely next prime minister of the UK, has recently withdrawn his commitment to spending £28 billion a year on green investment. As a lifelong Labour supporter, and someone who fully believes that a Tory win in the next general election would be national suicide, this has made me seriously consider leaving the party.

"This has made me seriously consider leaving the party"

Labour’s £28 billion plan was exactly what Britain needed: genuine commitment to climate action that would have created jobs across the country in various sectors, tackled fuel poverty through insulated homes, and increased the UK’s usage of wind and solar energy. The so-called ‘Green Prosperity Plan’ promised to redress some of the UK’s chronically underfunded public transport, and strengthen the country’s increasingly threatened flood defences. It was a rare moment of vision for Labour leader Keir Starmer, but once again he has lurched to the right, not only betraying the left-wing voters the party is supposed to represent, but also the 77% of the UK population who are “concerned” about climate change.

I am a lifelong Labour supporter, and have been a member of the party for several years. There has never been anything other than a Conservative government during my living memory, and the 2024 General Election will be my first chance to vote to change that. And yet, for many young people like me, the prospect of a Labour government increasingly seems less like something to celebrate and more of a necessary evil. No matter how weak and watered-down Starmer’s policies seemed, I always believed that it was worth remaining a member of the party to prevent the Tories from winning yet another disastrous term in government, because of the damage they would continue to inflict on a country that is already on the verge of collapse. Now I’m not so sure.

Though I am increasingly considering leaving the Party, I still think a Conservative victory would be far worse than Starmer’s lack of ambition. However, I don’t know if I could vote for a party that is looking increasingly like a parody of Johnson’s “Mr U-Turn”.

"If one of the world’s wealthiest countries can’t do it, who can?"

In all fairness to Starmer, he remains committed to £15 billion a year in green funding, which is not nothing. Regardless, it remains far short of the £26-£30 billion of green investment that studies indicate is necessary for the UK to reach its Net Zero commitments. It also does nothing to actively fix the damage that the last few years of Tory chaos have done to the UK’s international standing. If the country that just two years ago held COP26 and agreed to 'phase down' fossil fuels can’t even commit to reasonable amounts of funding for its own green investment, it's not a good look. If one of the world’s wealthiest countries can’t do it, who can?

National climate leadership is more crucial than ever before, particularly in an age where, despite the near-universal ratification of the Paris Agreement, just last year the planet reached the 1.5℃ of warming that it was supposed to prevent. Not only that, but the looming election of Donald Trump in the US looks like it will spell the end for American support for climate negotiations: the age of COP is dead.

"This could be Starmer’s success story"

This could be Starmer’s success story. The world desperately needs genuine commitment to climate action; less finger pointing at whose emissions records are worse and more stepping up to address them. Starmer could lead Britain towards a greener future and spearhead the international attempts at halting climate change. It is clearly within his reach –  as his original Green Pledge showed –  but the more he rolls back on his environmental promises, the less attractive the UK becomes as a destination for the same green investment he claims to want.

We have done this before. One of the most successful agreements in UN history was an environmental agreement ratified in 1987: the Montreal protocol. Under this protocol, substances that were known to be contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer were banned. By 2012, the production of these substances had been reduced by 98%, and the ozone hole is predicted to return to its 1980 size by 2040. This success shows that concrete progress can be reached on environmental issues, but U-turning on policies like the Green Investment Fund does nothing but make this success more unattainable.


Mountain View

I do not consider myself a victim. The boy who stabbed me does

Starmer needs to commit to a genuine vision and ambition that the UK has not seen in decades. Claiming that the Tories have crashed the economy is all well and good, but it is not an excuse for climate inaction. I will probably still vote for Labour in the next election, solely because under the first past the post system there is no one else to vote for. But Starmer cannot act as if electoral victory is a guarantee, especially if he cannot stick to any policies that will actually make Britain a better place.