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Labour could push for net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 as part of radical climate change policy, says John McDonnell

‘Our target was no later than 2050... but it wasn’t a fixed target and I think we’re going to have to pull that back in the light of the science’

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Thursday 13 June 2019 16:09 BST
Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg tells Extinction Rebellion supporters 'humanity is at a crossroads'

Labour is considering adopting radical climate change plans to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2030, John McDonnell has said.

The shadow chancellor revealed serious thought was going into reducing the deadline by two decades, in line with demands for stronger action from activists.

Theresa May recently announced plans to introduce a legally binding target to end greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, following recommendations from the government’s independent climate change advisers.

Her attempt to bolster her Downing Street legacy triggered a row with the Treasury, amid reports that Philip Hammond, the chancellor, tried to block the decision by claiming it would hit the economy by more than £1 trillion.

Labour has faced pressure to shift its own stance from left-wing activists.

Ahead of the party's autumn conference, Momentum, the influential grassroots network, has thrown its weight behind a “green new deal”, which includes a 2030 target.

Mr McDonnell said he has been holding talks with environmental protesters on how to reduce the 2050 target, including Extinction Rebellion, who took over London with widespread protests.

“Our target was no later than 2050, basically, but it wasn’t a fixed target and I think we’re going to have to pull that back in the light of the science that we now know,” Mr McDonnell told the Financial Times.

He said: “I want to aim for 2030 if I can, of course, but at the moment all the advice that we’re getting is that that isn’t realistic.

“So we’ve got to test that and look at the range of policies we need to enable that to happen.”

The shadow chancellor said the next Labour government would commit to £500bn of capital investment over the next 10 years, which would include investment in decarbonisation.

Mr McDonnell said: “We have to work with experts about what strategic interventions the state could make.”

A net-zero target means the amount of greenhouse gas emissions added to the earth's atmosphere would be balanced by the amount taken out, by planting trees or using carbon capture and storage schemes.

Hitting net zero will involve sweeping lifestyle changes, such as ending the use of gas boilers, switching to electric cars and greater reliance on green technologies.

Ms May announced plans to scrap the old target of reducing emissions by 80 per cent in 2050 this week, following the advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in May.

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Scotland has already committed to a 2045 net-zero target, and there are calls for the government to be more ambitious, with Friends of the Earth warning it was “still too slow to address catastrophic climate change”.

Announcing her plans, the prime minister said: “As the first country to legislate for long-term climate targets, we can be truly proud of our record in tackling climate change. We have made huge progress in growing our economy and the jobs market while slashing emissions.

“Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children. This country led the world in innovation during the Industrial Revolution, and now we must lead the world to a clear, greener form of growth.

“Standing by is not an option. Reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious target, but it is crucial that we achieve it to ensure we protect our planet for future generations.”

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