person holding there is no planet b poster
Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The science is clear about two things: the scale of the climate crisis we face and the actions that we must take to limit global warming. Time is running out to get to net zero and avoid a climate disaster—yet right now, the world is throwing away our last best chance to salvage a safer, longer, and fairer way of life because the UK is bungling the major UN climate summit COP26.  

Some progress will be made but not nearly enough. The Labour and Co-operative movement must be clear about why.  

We have a Prime Minister who doesn’t do detail, doesn’t do diplomacy, and doesn’t have a clue. We have a Chancellor more concerned with moving next door than helping the world’s poor. In years to come, people will wonder why it was so hard to invest in a zero-carbon rail network instead of slashing the duty on domestic flights the week before COP26. 

We must be clear about the prospects for climate action: if this Government isn’t going to make the investments and pledges needed to make a success of its summit, when will it? The Government has shown us the totality of their ambition—once the eyes of the world drift away from Global Britain, it will be harder to secure action or pledges and whatever we end up getting just won’t be enough. 

As well as being clear about what went wrong and why, we must be clear about what we’re going to do and why we can be trusted to get it right.  

We cannot bludgeon people into changing their behaviour and adopting new lifestyles when, over the last eleven years, they have been struggling under austerity, a divisive Brexit debate, pandemic and lockdowns, and a new cost-of-living crisis. Nor should we abandon leadership like the Tories by saying that everything is a matter of personal choice.  

In Oxford, we have just launched a third strand of our climate action: to engage people and explain the lifestyle changes that can help to reduce their own carbon emissions. While these changes are small, they may not feel that way – and we are explaining how we achieve more together than we could apart, and that the totality of all our changes can add up to a big difference. 

To address a climate crisis, we will need more co-operation, not less. We will need more democracy, not less. Our movement must explore new ways to engage the public where they are, understand their concerns rather than write them off, and come up with solutions that people can adopt even when they might involve some challenge or adjustment. 

In Oxford, we were the first UK city to host a Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change—uniting people from across the city, bringing together a range of viewpoints and backgrounds to debate the kind of society we would build to meet our climate goals but also enhance all our lives. The clear steer of Oxford’s Citizens’ Assembly was that the city should go further and faster than the national legal target to be a zero-carbon country. Oxford City Council has set a science-based target of 2040 to become net zero and galvanised anchored institutions to join a new partnership and act. 

Winning the next general election is critical. To become a zero-carbon country by 2050, Britain cannot delay taking the right action on the right scale. Only our movement is up to that challenge. 

Winning the next election will be hard enough. But we must also win that second term. A third term must follow, then a fourth consecutive term. To engineer a sustainable economy and society which heals the planet, Labour must be a sustainable party of government. We must have a continuous period in government to transform society, reform the institutions that underpin national life, and redesign our economy to make everyone wealthier in ways which do not damage our planet. 

To be election-ready but, more importantly, government-ready, so that we are not wasting any second of office, Labour must be thinking in more precise terms about how we will use power. Sometimes we can over-engineer solutions to our problems.  

We have many of the tools and the technologies needed to get to zero, in part because some of the best and the brightest minds are in Britain. They’re developing and deploying clean energy solutions here. For instance, Oxford is home to the world’s largest hybrid battery which is enabling a future electric bus fleet and the UK’s largest EV charging hub from the end of this year. We are home to Project LEO—a transformative new energy system which leads the way to local clean energy. 

 Our co-operative movement will power Labour to power because we have the best ideas, the best MPs, and the best councillors. Because Oxford is just one example of a co-operative city taking bold climate action because of a Labour and Co-operative Council. The Labour and Co-operative Parties are in power in communities across the country right now, making budgets, implementing bold ideas and leading communities through some of the toughest times they’ll ever know. We want to help prepare the Labour Party for national power by showing what we are doing in our own communities, sharing our knowledge, and working together in common cause. 

We cannot trust the Tories to heal our planet, unite our country, and fix our futures. Only a Labour and Co-operative Government will pull on all the levers of power to achieve climate security and a truly inclusive and fairer economy. Together, we are imagining a better future. Now we need to be joining together as co-operators and party members, elected representatives and trade unionists to make the best use of these achingly long years of opposition. We must develop the policies which will make Labour the natural party of Government, solve our country’s problems, and permanently shift the axis of politics in favour of co-operative values.