Giving Up

As Grace Blakeley writes over at the Tribune: “On the same day that climate scientists announced the world had breached the warming limit of 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, Starmer effectively announced that he had given up the fight against climate breakdown.”

The surrender is not at all surprising, indeed its been trailed for weeks, a media tactic of foreshadowing your decision by leaking it and have it discussed over weeks, so that when you finally announce it much of the energy from the thing has dissipated.

Rachel Reeves declared that she would be ‘the first Green Chancellor’ when she announced their flagship policy, which had been developed after careful study and interaction with the Biden team.

Almost daily we see Labour abandon previous pledges, commitments and ideals. Politicos say this is clever, tactical and reassuring, the rest of us wonder out loud what the point of such a denuded and hollowed-out Labour government will be. A few weeks back Starmer abandoned the ten pledges he made when he was elected. These have now been removed from his website:

But today’s abandonment is different. This is the abandonment of the cornerstone of their economic policy, their core belief, carefully honed and developed and heralded as such. It fused the ‘white heat of technology’ with an attempt to improve the crisis of fuel poverty by investing in jobs and insulation and improving homes. This has been a green standard policy for thirty years and is, as they say, a no-brainer.

With the real possibility of a Trump victory we will see a frenzy of oil and gas promotion, a slashing of any environmental legislation and a complete assault on all of Biden’s climate efforts, inadequate as they are.

He would scrap government considerations of the damage caused by carbon emissions; compel a diminished Environmental Protection Agency to rule out pollution rules for cars, and trucks and power plants; and would undoubtedly nullify the Paris climate agreement by withdrawing the US again. He would also open up the Arctic to drilling for oil. The projections for the cumulative effects of emissions on a second Trump presidency are horrific.

It’s in this context that Labour’s abandonment of its plans land. That and the darkly ironic timing. Yesterday for the very first time, the EU’s climate change service confirmed that global warming has exceeded 1.5C above preindustrial levels for an entire year. This is the threshold that climate scientists have been warning us of for years.

Further, as Simon Evans from Carbon Brief shows, there is some context for their figures:

But I think there is something deeper being abandoned here than their industrial strategy and their climate goals. They are abandoning a commitment to invest. As others have repeated this gets into a cyclical self-fulfilling dynamic. As James Meadway put it: “The Treasury Doom Loop in action: we can’t invest any money, because the economy is in such a bad state. Why is the economy in such a bad state? Because we didn’t invest any money. Why didn’t we invest any money? Because the economy was in such a bad state…”

Later we see Reeves quoted in the Financial Times explaining that ‘its not government that creates jobs.’ So what we are seeing here is not just disastrous for the environment or for the possibility of a Green New Deal it is the abandonment of a promise to invest.

This is a race to the death and its one we’re losing. For a long time Starmer has been framed as an Heir to Blair, a pragmatic response to the ideology of Corbynism, an electorally palatable man. This outline needs junked now. The void at the party’s core has been filled with conformism and careerism.

The abandonment of the commitment means the end of the fantasy about a ‘Green New Deal’ coming round the corner, the centrepiece of the left-green movements hopes for the last ten years. But it also dispels another myth, another inconvenient truth, that you can have economic growth at the heart of a green strategy.

It is also disastrous for Scotland – we had been promised tens of thousands of jobs as part of this programme to create a viable renewables industry. At the moment despite shipyards lying empty on the east coast, renewables parts are built on the other side of the world and then brought over to offshore wind farms just miles off the Scottish coast.

What distinguished Blair’s government, and could have distinguished Starmer’s was the promise of constitutional change. Even if their economic policy was barely distinguishable from the Tories in actuality, the promise of structural change – the mythical reform of the House of Lords – some form of federalism (blah blah blah) – enhanced devolution – gave Labour some credence as alternative. That’s all gone. Expect Mayors, or something.

Comments (13)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. SleepingDog says:

    While I don’t agree with everything in the following article, it does show that reframing sovereignty towards the biosphere is compatible with large-scale investment plans:
    “Bring traditional concepts of sovereignty into line with the imperatives of planetary ecological stewardship, including by endorsing a new state responsibility to protect the global environment.”

    I assume that the UN’s proposed ‘Earth Assembly’ slated for 24 April 2023 will also look at changing the paradigm.

    But I don’t think the SNP are much more advanced than Starmerite New Labour on this. As I keep saying, party politics does not deliver the required solutions.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      sorry, copy-paste error, meant:
      ‘This Interactive Dialogue is mandated to discuss “the possibility of convening and the scope of a high-level
      meeting, tentatively entitled “Earth Assembly”, to be held on 22 April 2024, so that an evolving nonanthropocentric or Earth-centred paradigm continues to reinforce multilateralism through the discussion of alternative holistic approaches based on diverse world views that may contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and beyond”.’

    2. SleepingDog says:

      In this 2023 talk (Sovereignty and the earth system: A new legal approach) at TEDxPorto, Ana Barreira outlines two problems of sovereignty in international law, and proposes a solution that respects the Earth System (comprising the geosphere and biosphere), with a little bit of history on how we arrived at our stage of maldevelopment (my term).

  2. Gavinochiltree says:

    Age lends a certain perspective. I am in my mid-70’s so might see the start of the end of human expansion on this planet, but thankfully not much more.
    The future is totally grim with global warming at a tipping point (long lived sponges deep in the Carib sea point to an increase in global temperatures of 1.7C right now) and we seem oblivious to our fate.
    We know how it will play out because it has before: a sudden ( a few decades) climate collapse with few areas of the planet tenable for human life. Run away warming; sea rises, first of a few dozen metres, then hundreds of metres; the collapse of the Gulf Stream conveyer and an ice age in Europe.
    There is vague talk of tech solutions—space screens and stuff—they ACTUALLY cannot do it.
    The end of human civilisation and potentially all human existence.
    This is no exaggeration— a disaster movie in real time and real space.

    The Tories are blinded by greed: Labour by stupidity.

    1. John Monro says:

      I could have made very similar comments. Age 77 – aware of the global warming problem since James Hansen’s testimony in 1988. I still have books published at this time, and have a near library shelf of such volumes. Letters to the press, letters to ministers have been part of my life since then. I live in NZ – a country that could probably more easily take a leadership in changing our economy than any other but has become instead one of the western nations sluggards and regular winner of the fossil of the year at COP and IPCC meetings. Following the Paris talks in 2015 I wrote that the idea of limiting warming to 1.5 deg C was delusional (I wrote this before I read Hansen has said much the same thing). Hansen is now suggesting that global warming is accelerating, there is scientific “debate” about this – but the graph that is provided in the link by Mike would seem to show an obvious, though may not yet be strictly “significant”, acceleration, much to the same extent as the CO2 levels in the atmosphere do from the Mauna Loa graph. Hansen now extrapolates a rise in global temperatures by up to 5 deg C by the century’s end. This is an unsurvivable environmental change and temperature rise for the vast majority of the human population and much of earth’s biosphere. This is in the time frame of today’s “life expectancy” of any child born today, though of course that life expectancy is now seriously in doubt.

      Mike is right. Basically Starmer is an environmental and economic vandal but no more so then almost any other politician or business leader in this country or overseas. He is immersed in the present day, and the destructive “common understanding” and acceptance of the way we now do things – economically, socially, politically. His economic policy, stated several times, is “Growth, growth, growth”, a policy he’s directly and cynically stolen without attribution not just from those economic titans, Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng, but even more unwisely from the policies of an active cancer cell, and which very sadly may yet kill our King, and in its environmental parallel, us. (This is a metaphorical comparison, I’m not writing off the poor fellow already, I wish the old man a speedy cure and recovery – as with all the others that share this diagnosis presently)

      I am one with the old man I’m replying to – I have developed over the last twenty years a profound cynicism and pessimism as to our predicament, and my heart sinks when I hear discussions even with the most informed scientists and commentators that “we still have time” to turn things around. To “turn things around’ apparently scientifically means a halving of our global warming emissions by 2030…….and pigs might fly.

      Does that mean we should now actually “give up” – no, of course not. First, every effort to ameliorate the problem is worth it, a 3 deg C rise is “better” than a 4 deg rise, even if the effects are still existentially dire. Secondly, isn’t there a psychological benefit from actually doing something – even if ultimately it does prove futile?

      1. John says:

        Completely agree and I note a report in last couple of days saying that ‘tipping point’ for Atlantic stream may arrive sooner than feared.
        All the indicators about global warming (1.5C rise in last year etc) are more worrying Year on year yet many politicians downplay or are openly hostile using the climate mitigation as a wedge policy.
        I don’t say this lightly but I do think that in light of all the evidence of the massive harm rising global temperatures will inflict on humans, animals and nature politicians who deliberately ignore this evidence and wilfully promote policies that will potentially excacerbate the situation are not only mad and bad but evil.

        1. Graeme Purves says:

          Just so, John.

        2. SleepingDog says:

          @John, yes, if Life is a value-creation phenomena, and the net values of biodiversity, ecological self-governance, evolutionary adaptation, natural exploitation of habitats (etc) are (vastly, in planetary terms) positive, then wilfully or reckless-knowingly destroying these must be (vastly) evil, beyond any effect of ecocide to humans.

  3. Tom Ultuous says:


  4. Ellie McDonald says:

    Keir Starmer is the political equivalent of UPF

  5. Mike Parr says:

    As usual the article is far far too charitable. TCP (tory continuity party) is ravenous for power, they will do anything to ensure they win the election and this includes canning anything that opens them to attack from the tories. In this context, the climate and actions to address the growing disaster are irrelevant. And lets face it, they are incapable of articulating a rationale for action in this area – they are far far too stupid to do that.

    By junking any meaningful action on renewables or climate Starmer, Reeves, Streeting et al expose themselves as the power-hungry whores they really are. They have seen the filthy lucre that B.Liar (and Mendelsohn) the whoremonger/war monger in chief made & they want the same. After all, if you are not in politics for the lucre why are you in politics. Whores & in the case of Starmer, a Zionist, killer whore.

    1. Daniel Raphael says:

      My only reservation to your remarks is that by association with Starmer’s outfit, you slur the comparatively good name of whores.

  6. Daniel Raphael says:

    “The void at the party’s core has been filled with conformism and careerism.”

    That, and the Meadway quotation, do sum it up. Considering what’s occuring in “advanced nations” everywhere, I’m so glad I’m old.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.