Wind turbines
Image credit: Creative Commons, Tom Corser

Another week, and apparently another delay to the long-awaited energy white paper. Bigger news may have rocked the political boat over the last week, but the Government can’t get away with kicking this can down the road anymore. We are in the middle of a climate crisis with no time to lose.

We were told that the white paper would be released in the summer, but parliament has gone into recess with not a mention of the elusive white paper escaping the newly formed, deeply right wing Cabinet.This isn’t good enough. We have a right to know what the Government’s energy plans are. But we also have to be honest with ourselves. This white paper, whenever it is published, is unlikely to hold the boldness of vision, direction and clarity that we need. The facts are there – we have just 18 months to save the planet.

Despite this, another parliamentary session has closed without anything like enough being achieved on climate change. There has been quite a lot of hot air, from plastic waste promises to the unambitious net zero carbon emissions target by 2050. Yet in the face of empty government rhetoric about decarbonisation, we’re still building gas-fired power stations – although concerned citizens and campaigners Reclaim the Power have successfully stopped operations on one power station this week.

Going backwards

Progress is not just slow, we’re going backwards. We’re already slipping away from our previous, lower carbon target, and measures to support the lowering of emissions and to actually tackle the climate crisis are simply not in place. All the while, the Government is planning extra runways, banning on-shore wind which is the cheapest form of renewable energy, and allowing houses to be built that don’t capitalise on technology that is already out there to make them more energy efficient.

In fact, the Government’s own data shows that their attempts to make existing homes more energy efficient, and in the process end fuel poverty have fallen by 85%. Subsidies for energy efficiency are plummeting, and at this rate, it will take the Government 96 years to reach its own targets on fuel poverty.

Clearly, we need action and we need it fast. We’re one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and yet nearly 10,000 people each year die of fuel poverty because they can’t afford to pay their heating bills over the winter. Any white paper published needs to show how it will tackle these completely avoidable deaths by providing cheaper, sustainable energy that means people don’t have to choose between food and fuel. It also needs to show how our use of energy can become a tool with which we tackle the climate crisis.

We need a Green New Deal

There is a way to do all of this – while enabling individuals to prosper and communities to thrive. It’s called the Green New Deal. It’s the only way we can take the steps needed to provide people with energy they can afford while protecting the survival of our planet. The Green New Deal is a bold initiative which would see major investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, to rebuild and revitalise Britain, to tackle austerity and fuel poverty, while addressing the climate crisis.

This is what we need to see in the white paper. We need to see investment in local green businesses and initiatives, from solar panel installation to energy efficient home building. By doing so we would have local, secure, well-paid jobs, and greener houses. The Green New Deal would inject money into our economy when we need it most, lifting people out of poverty and providing hope and purpose for millions. It could also mitigate some of the dire consequences of the Tory’s ideologically driven austerity agenda: if we give people cheaper energy they won’t need to choose between heating and eating.

The Green New Deal is about energy – but it offers far more than that. It’s a plan for the future: offering jobs, security, safety, as well as a world we can actually live in – and be proud of. And it’s one that is being embraced by politicians worldwide – from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the US to newly appointed EU Commission President, Von der Leyen – although there is much more flesh to be put on the bone with the latter.

Since the Government is delaying publication of its white paper, there’s time for a radical rethink of our energy policy. My message to Boris Johnson is this: you are unlikely to keep your position for very long, so use the little time that you have wisely – because the clock is ticking for our planet. In the few weeks and months that I suspect you have ahead of you in government, you have the opportunity to create a legacy which ensures bold action on climate change as well as tackling some of the horrific consequences of austerity. Swift action will be life changing for all of us – and failure to act will be devastating.