Stepping on stage at the Durham Miners’ Gala the weekend before last, Jeremy Corbyn had decided to talk about climate change. ““Labour will superpower a new industrial revolution for the north with a record investment blitz,” he said. Then came the masterstroke. “Where the mines fuelled the first Industrial Revolution, renewable energy will deliver Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution and 400,000 new jobs. As the miners were given shovels and axes to dig for coal, Labour will give the North the tools and support it needs so you can deliver your future.” The north of England had once been the economic backbone of this country, and so it would be again.
Framing environmental protection in terms of industrial reinvigoration was a key piece of political strategy. Climate change denial frequently resonates in post-industrial regions because ecological concerns are considered elitist preaching which kill jobs and insults their heritage. Corbyn flipped this on its head. Climate change was not an indictment of heritage of the post-industrial heartland; it was an opportunity for its reinstatement. Calling it ‘the Green New Deal’, too, was inspired. By wedding environmental action with redistributive policies and couching it in Rooseveltian terms, Labour are on to a winner.
This is important because, while there is consensus on the need to combat climate catastrophe, the means to avoid this end lend themselves to argument. Indeed, conservation could be popular among conservatives, liberals or radicals, with wildly different opinions on how to enact that conservation existing between these different groups.
Preventing climate catastrophe is going to become an increasingly important political issue over time. We know that concerns about climate change have reached a record high. We also know that young people think climate breakdown is the biggest threat to society, so it is going to become an even more pressing issue.
Given this combination of the problem’s increasing electoral expediency and the fact that its solution is contested, Labour must seize the green agenda. Workers and the young should front and centre of any policy to green our economy — it is in their interests that action should be taken.