Labour told to cover area size of 22,000 football pitches with solar panels to meet climate change targets

Party believes it can create 850,000 skilled green jobs as it makes drive for net zero carbon emissions by 2030

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Thursday 24 October 2019 10:58 BST
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Pictured is an aerial view of solar panels in Hai'an, Jiangsu Province of China
Pictured is an aerial view of solar panels in Hai'an, Jiangsu Province of China

An area of the UK the size of 22,000 football pitches could be carpeted with solar panels under an expert plan commissioned by Labour to help meet its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

The proposal is among a set of 30 recommendations also including insulation and double-glazing upgrades for every home in the UK, 7,000 off-shore and 2,000 on-shore wind turbines and the installation of 8 million heat pumps.

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said the scheme could deliver a net benefit of £800 billion to the economy by 2030 and create 850,000 skilled green jobs.

And she said that upgrading housing stock – beginning with the dampest homes – could end fuel poverty for 2.5 million households and reduce cases of asthma by 565,00 by the end of the next decade.

Labour’s annual conference last month overwhelmingly backed a radical bid to work towards slashing carbon emissions as part of a Green New Deal, in the face of opposition from the GMB union, which represents energy workers and warned the drive would lead to “the closure of whole industries”.

Ms Long Bailey insisted that the new proposals would be good for workers as well as helping to meet international climate change targets to keep global temperature rises below 1.5C.

“This report makes a major contribution to Labour’s plans to kickstart a green industrial revolution,” said Ms Long Bailey.

“The Labour Party has among the most ambitious climate targets in the world and is the only party turning their targets into detailed, credible plans to tackle the climate and environmental crisis.

“Inaction on climate by Conservative and Lib Dem coalition governments has led to a lost decade in the race to cut emissions from our energy system.

“The recommendations in this report could put the UK on track for a zero-carbon energy system during the 2030’s – but only if rapid progress is made early on. The next five years are therefore crucial.

“We are working with trade unions to ensure that the changes to our energy system will be planned democratically, with the interests of workers and local communities at the heart of the transition.”

Rebecca Long Bailey

The 30 by 2030 report identified four key goals to transform the UK’s energy supply and use:

- Reducing energy waste in buildings and industry;

- Decarbonising heat;

- Boosting renewable and low carbon electricity generation; and

- Balancing the UK’s supply and demand.

It found that the public health consequences of cutting emissions could save the NHS £400 million a year, including by avoiding 6,200 respiratory-related deaths a year by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy.

Responding to the report, GMB national secretary Justin Bowden said: “This report is a serious attempt from Labour to work with trade unions to create a practical plan rooted in the real world.

“With 24 million homes in the UK heated by gas, recognising and supporting the essential role for ultra-low carbon green hydrogen gas keeps Labour in touch with ordinary working people.

“A plan to tackle climate change that not only meets the country’s future energy needs but will create quality jobs, whilst ensuring the costs of any green revolution are not loaded onto household energy bills but paid for by corporations and through progressive general taxation, is far more than anything any Tory government has ever offered.”

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