Keir Starmer / Flickr

For Labour to fully emerge as the party of business, Starmer must hold firm on the green agenda

After spending the last few months defending her flagship Green Prosperity Plan (GPP) from Conservative attacks, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Rachel Reeves now has an opportunity to focus on the positive, thanks to new polling commissioned by the Labour Climate and Environment Forum (LCEF).

Attacks on Labour’s green policy agenda have had a continuous presence over the summer with the Conservatives believing they have found a winning strategy. The narrow victory in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election seemed to cement the perception within CCHQ that this is a winning approach.

But this new line of attack seems to be having little impact on the general public. A survey of public opinion conducted by polling agency Ipsos Mori suggests that in this matter, the public is on Labour’s side.

Only 37% of Britons think the Prime Minister is doing a good job at addressing climate change, versus 44% who think he is doing a bad job. Conversely, over three quarters think that Keir Starmer would do comparably well or better.

Polling for LCEF’s launch report showed that people who saw Keir Starmer talking about climate were twelve percentage points more likely to think Labour was the best party on the economy.  This has only been strengthened by the centring of the GPP as one of Labour’s five core missions: a fully costed industrial strategy with the potential to be the most transformative infrastructure investment in modern British history.

The GPP would commit a future Labour government to front-loading much needed capital investment in green infrastructure projects over a period of five years.

Attacks of this approach citing claims of fiscal irresponsibility or driving inflation are at odds with research produced by Cambridge Econometrics, which has found that the GPP would give the UK economy a boost of around 2% of GDP by 2030. In employment numbers, the boost is expected to be around 1%, equivalent to 300,000 new jobs. This supply-side growth would offset any potential inflationary pressures the GPP might cause. In other words, contrary to what some might believe, climate investment is the fiscally responsible thing to do.

British and global investors alike also back the plan, according to recent polling commissioned by LCEF. More than three-quarters (78%) of global investors believe that government-led investment of £28 billion in green industries would bring more opportunity to UK businesses than it would pose potential risks. Moreover, over two-thirds of investors (73%) agreed that the GPP would encourage the same or more investment from the private sector.

This is because investors agree that ‘clean tech’ industries are a huge opportunity – climate investment is the investment opportunity of the 21st century. Until now, however, they’ve held back from leading the charge on the green transition. Part of it is due to the enormous up-front cost needed to overhaul Britain’s domestic infrastructure to even make the green transition possible.

But a big part of it is a lack of clarity and direction from government. As businesses will know too well, it has been difficult to predict Government policy over the last five years. This breeds uncertainty and reluctance to invest, at a time when the UK is in desperate need of capital investment to not only achieve its climate commitments but also tackle some of the UK’s long-standing economic problems such as stagnating growth, low productivity, and regional inequality.

By committing a future government to front-loading investment, Labour are signalling that they are willing to be a partner to business, unlock investment, and let growing UK companies take the baton and help future-proof the UK’s economy.

We are well placed to make the most of a green transition. Britain is home to a world-class early-stage technology sector; global top-ranking universities producing innovative solutions; and we have a comparative advantage in offshore wind, electric vehicles, and even green finance.

One year ago, American President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law. A watershed moment for the American economy, the IRA has committed the United States to long-term targets for cutting carbon emissions by 40% and is expected to generate 9 million clean energy jobs by 2032.

When Biden first introduced the IRA, he faced Republican-led attempts to scupper the $369 billion plan. Despite a majority of Americans believing that the US Government should do more to tackle climate change, Republicans have used the IRA to criticise the Biden administration along similar lines, making climate policy a key issue in Red states and is likely to be a wedge issue at the next Presidential election.

But the United Kingdom is not the United States. We have been lucky that in the past decade, the vast majority of Westminster has been in full support of reaching net zero targets and that climate has stayed out of any culture war. This has been bolstered by the unambiguous support for greening the economy from the general public.

The lines of attack aimed at Labour’s climate ambitions are setting themselves against the majority of voters; against the direction of travel of our global allies; and against what private investors want to see.

Labour should not let itself get distracted by these short-term lines of attack. Instead, it should stay the course with its investment plans. The future of the UK is undeniably a green and prosperous one. is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.

Picture from Keir Starmer Flickr account.