Keir Starmer meeting king Abdullah II of Jordan at COP 28 last year in Dubai (Picture: Keir Starmer on Flickr)

The planet is burning as Labour backtracks on its £28 billion a year climate investments a year pledge. This is Starmer’s latest betrayal, choosing once again to side with big business.

The pledge promised substantial investment in green industries, technologies and jobs. But over the last year, the Tories have focused their attacks on Labour’s green spending commitments.

And so the pledge is “effectively being stood down,” Starmer said last week. Just a month ago, Starmer defended the plan as “a fight I want to have”. But flight, not fight, is the route Starmer has gone down.

Rather than standing for a sustainable future. Starmer has capitulated. He lines up with the Tories to attack migrants and trans rights and now does the same on climate change.

The U-turn comes as the European Union’s climate service found that global warming has exceeded 1.5 degree Celisius for an entire year.

This is one of Starmer’s most substantial U-turns yet. The commitment was Starmer’s flagship policy when launched in 2021 and at the centre of Labour’s plans to boost Britain’s economy.

But the pledge has been watered down to less than £5 billion a year. This is a tiny sum compared to the existential threat of climate change.

In 2021, Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said she’d be Britain’s first “green chancellor”, boasting about Labour fighting for “a fairer, greener future”.

Reeves has since changed her tune. “I think people have heard loud and clear from me that economic responsibility is the most important thing for me,” she said as she supported the backtracking.

Instead, Reeves aims to be an “iron chancellor” of economic caution. There are no illusions why this retreat has happened. A Labour shadow cabinet member said, “It had to go.

We couldn’t head into an election with this big, huge target for the Tories to fire at.” Labour will always bow to electoral pressures rather than carry out transformative change.

The party is more worried about proving its worth to bosses than the future of our planet. There has rightly been fury from climate campaigners.

Rosemary Harris, North Sea campaigner at Oil Change International, said it is “a slap in the face and a betrayal” of “future generations impacted by the climate crisis”.

Head of politics at Greenpeace, Rebecca Newsom, blasted Starmer for showing “weak” political, economic and climate leadership. And a recent opinion poll showed that the pledge was one of the most popular Labour policies.

But Starmer doesn’t care about what ordinary people want, he cares about being a safe pair of hands for the capitalist class. Once again, the Labour leadership has caved like a house of cards in the wind.

Our climate heads to catastrophe as temperatures continue to soar

Global temperature rises have exceeded 1.5 degree Celisius above pre-industrial levels across an entire year for the first time.

And this comes as the Atlantic Ocean currents reach a tipping point of collapse. Keeping temperature rises beneath 1.5 degree Celisius is critical to limiting long-run destruction.

But from February 2023 to January 2024, the world reached 1.52 degree Celisius of warming, according to the European Union’s climate service.

And we are currently on track to heat our planet by 2.7 degree Celisius by 2100—a level that threatens to undermine the conditions for human life.

We are facing climate catastrophe. We must act urgently to cut carbon emissions and slow global warming—but bosses and politicians are not doing enough.

The rise “far exceeds anything that is acceptable”, said Professor Bob Watson, former chair of the UN’s climate body.

“Look what’s happened this year with only 1.5 degree Celisius —we’ve seen floods, we’ve seen droughts, we’ve seen heatwaves and wildfires all over the world.”

And the world’s sea surface is also at its highest ever average— another sign of climate records continually being broken.

But “the real danger is that there are so many other crises around us that there is no effort less for the climate crisis,” said Reinhard Steurer, a climate researcher. “We are overburdened with other things like inflation and wars all around us.” 

The vast array of capitalist crises could distract from the need to tackle climate change. And large corporations—who are responsible for the majority of carbon emissions—continue to massively pollute.

A study last week found that the Atlantic Ocean currents are nearing collapse. The vast system of ocean currents are key to regulating global climate.

The currents carry heat and carbon from the warmer tropics to the Artic Circle, where currents then cool and sink into the deep ocean.

The process distributes energy around the world and mitigates against global warming. But the process is disintegrating.

Artic sheets melting is causing freshwater to flow into the sea, preventing the sinking of warmer, saltier warmer from the south. The study says, “This is bad news for the climate system and humanity.”

The lead author, Rene van Westen said, “What surprised us was the rate at which tipping occurs” and if a tipping point of collapse is reaching “it will be devastating”.

All climate indicators point towards a dangerous future. But climate collapse is not inevitable. The world can stop warming if net zero carbon emissions are reached.

“That means we can control how much warming the world experiences, based on our choices as a society,” says Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth.

We need a society run sustainably by ordinary people, not by the ruling classes for profit.

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