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UK 2024 election – analysis: Labour’s landslide victory was a resounding win for clean energy and climate action

UK 2024 election – analysis: Labour’s landslide victory was a resounding win for clean energy and climate action

 Secretary of State for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) Ed Miliband addresses the staff at the department upon being confirmed by Prime Minister Keir Starmer to head up the department on Friday 5th of July, 2024. Photo credit: Lauren Hurley / DESNZ via Flickr.

By Anders Lorenzen

On Thursday the 4th of July, after 14 years of Conservative Party (Tory) rule, the British public delivered a damning verdict to the Conservatives by giving the Labour Party an astonishing landslide victory. And the Labour Party leader Keir Starmer becomes the country’s next prime minister.

While the Tories suffered the worst defeat ever, Labour saw their biggest victory ever, even beating the previous landslide in 1997 when Tony Blair came into office.

In our previous article, we endorsed the Labour Party. We also acknowledged that their ambition could be higher when it comes to tackling climate change and unleashing the potential of clean energy and technology. And they have at least set a clear strategy for how to reach it. It is a strategy they believe could present a real change. It sets a different tone to that of the party of the outgoing government – who have dithered back and forward on energy and climate policies, lacking a clear and consistent vision.

In addition to Labour winning 412 of the 650 parliamentary seats, other pro-climate parties enjoyed positive results, the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) and the Green Party (Greens) also saw their best-ever election results, winning 71 and four MPs respectively. This increase, taking into account the UK’s first-past-the-post election system, was remarkable, with the Lib Dems gaining a whopping 63 new seats and the Greens three. The pro-climate Scottish National Party (SNP) suffered huge election losses to Labour and the Lib Dems but retained nine seats.

A worrying trend was the success of the Reform Party, the climate-denying and anti-climate party, led by the prolific climate-denier Nigel Farage. They will be represented in parliament for the first time, having won five seats. Also, many of the Tories who lost their seats were the more centrist and pro-climate action MPs, while a significant number of the 121 remaining Tory MPs hold climate-sceptical and extreme right views and policies. This creates a worry that the Tories are moving in the direction of the US Republican Party. Some Tory MPs have now concluded that they lost because the party had not been right-wing enough and not anti-net-zero enough.


No doubt

But make no doubt about it, looking at the data, several of the over 200 new Labour MPs have been elected on the back of a strong climate agenda. In addition, with the resounding success of the Greens and Lib Dems, it would be accurate to come to the conclusion that the majority of the British public wants more action on climate change and not less. 

Among the 650 Members of the Parliament, you will find very few who do not accept the scientific consensus on climate change. Of the nearly 500 Labour, Lib Dems, SNP and Green MPs you would not find one. 

You can be pretty sure that the five Reform MPs, who achieved a vote share of 14%, will be climate deniers, and there might be a handful of Tories adopting similar positions and rhetoric.  But that is a small number, and it does not indicate that the public is sceptically aligned against climate action and net-zero policies

It is worth pointing out that the by-election in the constituency of Uxbridge, retained by the Tories earlier this year, had been framed as a referendum on net-zero policies due to an extension of the ultra-low emission zone into the outer London borough. 

But at the election, it was just one of many seats that Labour took from the Conservatives. YouGov polling has found that the number of people in the UK worried about climate change has lingered around 67% for the past year. 31% of the population are not worried, with 16% of those not accepting that the climate is changing because of human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels. Many would argue that 16% is still too high a number, but it does not indicate a revolt against climate action and net-zero policies.


Green growth

Starmer’s Labour government will have a limited budget, and as a result, will have limited spending budgets and therefore will need to prioritise generating growth.

The heart of its manifesto will be green growth, and the party has not wasted any time in unleashing that objective. On Monday, the first full working day of being in power, alongside speeding up the planning approval process across housing, energy, infrastructure and other areas, they also lifted the Conservative imposed ban on onshore wind, identified by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) as the cheapest form of new energy generation.

As the government is less than a week old, there is very little concrete policy news. But this is likely to change in the next few weeks as the new Energy Secretary and climate advocate, former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, continues to build his team. They will then set out a strategy to deliver on the manifesto pledge for the UK to become a clean energy superpower. This will be with policies including a doubling of onshore wind, a tripling of solar power provision, and a quadrupling of offshore wind by 2030.

We will follow up on this analysis with a more detailed analysis, once we have a clearer idea about the government’s energy and climate vision and strategy.


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