As ‘The Big One’ highlights the climate emergency, the Tories are failing people & planet on every count – John McDonnell MP exclusive


“Our (mis) leaders then simply can’t be trusted to develop an agenda that take on the vested interests of big business, but this is exactly what is needed to tackle the climate emergency.”

John McDonnell MP

By John McDonnell MP

This weekend, thousands of people will peacefully descend on Parliament square in support of ‘The Big One’ gathering in Parliament Square to highlight the deepening climate emergency, and the Government’s inaction in dealing with it. Called by Extinction Rebellion, the initiative has received amazing support from a range of civil society groups, trade unions, peace campaigners and others. As publicity for ‘The Big One’ points out “the climate, nature and humanity face disaster… we know it’s time to act.”

The urgency of the climate situation – and the need for mass actions around it – was starkly confirmed by the severe lack of ambition illustrated in the Tories’ recently published plans in this area in terms of reducing carbon emissions on March 30.

It is worth noting that the government was only publishing ‘new’ policy because of the High Court ruling its climate strategy unlawful, following an action brought by Friends of the Earth, Client Earth and the Good Law Project. Specifically, the ruling had seen the Government’s ‘net zero’ strategy being ruled inadequate and in breach of the Climate Change Act. 

The package published by the Government contains a “carbon budget delivery plan” showing that the UK is not on track to deliver on its international climate pledge for 2030 under the Paris Agreement, and astonishingly there is only one new funding commitment in 2,000 plus pages – a £10bn UK export finance facility.

Furthermore, it makes it clear that the UK will continue its policy of expanding fossil fuel production in the North Sea. Its Energy Security Plan says that the North Sea Transition Authority will retain its controversial core objective of “maximising” offshore oil and gas production in UK waters. 

This is the road to disaster. You simply can’t decarbonise the economy by opening up new oil, gas and coal fields, which is why the International Energy Agency – regarded as a quite conservative agency by many climate justice campaigners – has clearly said there should be no new gas, oil or coal fields opened up if we are stop climate breakdown.

BP made record profits of £27.7bn in 2022 and Shell made a record £39.9bn – further fuelling these obscene profits, rather than taxing them to put in place policies for people and planet shows just how wrong the Tories’ priorities are.

In the recent spring budget  there was also no sign of the scale of investment and action we need. In particular, there was no new policy for renewables, including in terms of the failure to end the effective ban on shore wind power – the cheapest source of clean electricity in the UK. The Government have also missed an opportunity to take action on replacing gas heating with heat pumps, which would make a massive difference.

Back in 2021, whilst hosting COP26, the UK government sought to position itself as a global leader of climate ambition – but the reality is that its more interested in protecting the profits of the fossil fuel multinationals than it is in taking any sort of meaningful lead on the climate. The same can be said of their chums and paymasters in big business – it was recently reported that only one in 40 large British businesses has published a net-zero transition plan consistent with current Government advice on ensuring credibility. , with the IPPR finding that just 2.5% of the businesses have published transition plans to reach net-zero by 2050 or sooner.

Our (mis) leaders then simply can’t be trusted to develop an agenda that take on the vested interests of big business, but this is exactly what is needed to tackle the climate emergency. This makes urgent mobilisations such as the ‘Big One’ – and our accompanying work in arguing for a radical, transformative Green Industrial Revolution with massive public investment at its core – all the more important.

As the organisers of ‘The Big One’ say, “every single person makes us collectively more powerful, and makes our voices harder for the Government to ignore. Just imagine what thousands of us working together could do. We can make this the biggest climate protest ever held in the UK – something that is talked about for generations. We can bring about change. We can turn the tide. But first, we need to show up.”

Solidarity with everyone at Parliament Square this weekend!

  • The ‘Big One’ is a four-day action from the 21st to the 24th April 2023. People from all groups and movements will gather throughout Westminster to demand climate action. Full details here.
  • You can follow John McDonnell on Twitter here and Facebook here.
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Featured image: John McDonnell speaking to fast food workers holding a strike meeting at London’s Leicester Square on Thursday 4th October 2018. Photo credit: Garry Knight under CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication

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