Keir Starmer: COP26 success ‘at risk’ by Boris Johnson’s ‘failure of leadership’

SIR Keir Starmer has warned that Boris Johnson’s “failure of leadership” on tackling the climate crisis could put the COP26 global conference at risk of failure.

Both Sir Keir and the Prime Minister are visiting Scotland this week ahead of Glasgow hosting the global climate conference in November.

The Labour leader has labelled the Glasgow gathering of world leaders “one of the most critical conferences that we’ve seen for a very long time”.

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The UK Government will play a crucial leadership role in hosting the COP26 summit.

Sir Keir warned that “we need leadership like never before” as well as “international diplomacy and the ability to bring countries together in a coalition” – adding that they “are characteristics and skills which I don’t see in our Prime Minister”.

The Labour leader spoke as he called for “rapid green investment” across the UK as new figures reveal more than 75,000 green jobs have been lost over the past five years.

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He said the UK had to “lead by example” on the climate crisis and invest more in jobs in renewable energy and technology by harnessing a “green new deal”, as he toured Scotland on a two-day visit.

Sir Keir insisted that COP26 is a huge test of Boris Johnson’s leadership and claimed politicians from across the world will be looking to the UK Government to show the way in lowering emissions to keep global temperatures below a critical 1.5C rise.

He said: “What we need at the moment is leadership.

“His reputation as foreign secretary and as Prime Minister is someone much more likely to be breaking international law than building coalitions.

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“Countries across the world will be looking to see what we have done, what’s our record, because they will be saying what they feel they can do in terms of their contributions.”

The Labour leader pointed to the UK Government having “dismantled” Labour’s green homes policy and the green investment bank.

He added: “Other countries are going to be looking at that and thinking ‘you haven’t led the way’.

“I fear that the failure of leadership by our Prime Minister puts COP at risk.

“Obviously I hope that it doesn’t because I can’t stress enough how big a moment this is.

“If we don’t get significantly down the road to tackling the 1.5C ambition in the next 10 years, it’s very hard to see how we get to 2050 and hitting the targets. The next 10 years is absolutely vital in relation to this.”

Sir Keir, who on his last visit to Scotland arrived by plane, told journalists that his leadership would not support a third runway at Heathrow “unless it satisfied certain tests including tests in relation to climate change”.

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He was asked whether his party is backing plans by Shell and Siccar Point Energy to open a new oil field near Shetland, which will be considered by the UK Government.

Sir Keir said: “No we don’t support it.

“It is inconsistent with the targets that we need to meet.”

Figures from the Office for National Statistics cited by Labour show a loss of 33,800 “direct” jobs and a further 41,400 jobs in the supply chain for low-carbon and renewable sectors between 2014 and 2019 across the UK.

This includes thousands of fewer jobs in solar power, onshore wind, renewable electricity and bioenergy.

Sir Keir said: “Tackling the climate crisis must be at the heart of everything we do. We are at a critical moment.

“In less than 100 days, COP26 will be over and our chance to keep the planet’s warming below 1.5C will have either been grasped or abandoned.

“The UK must rise to this moment and lead by example. That means rapid action to create good, green jobs across the country. And it means a proper strategy to buy, make and sell more in Britain, to create good, unionised jobs in clean energy and through supply chains.

The Labour leader also criticised the Scottish Government’s record on green jobs, claiming the SNP “broke its pledge to create 130,000 green jobs by 2020”.

In 2010, the Scottish Government predicted that jobs in the low-carbon sector would reach 130,000 by 2020 according to a now-archived official web page, but the latest ONS figures show 21,400 direct green jobs in Scotland, compared to 23,200 in 2014.

Labour has called for £30bn in planned investment to be brought forward to support up to 400,000 jobs in manufacturing and low-carbon industries.

READ MORE: COP26 Countdown: SNP told to ‘up its game’ with climate action

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar labelled COP26 as “a massive opportunity for the city of Glasgow in demonstrating that Glasgow and Scotland is open for business again”.

He added: “It’s also a huge opportunity for us to recognise that international cooperation really matters around climate change.

“What we want when the world’s eyes are on Glasgow is to see a country that is unified in the fight against climate change, is serious about its own obligations around climate change and wants to build relationships around the world.”

A UK Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesperson said: “As we build back better and greener from the pandemic, this Government is firmly committed to seizing the economic opportunities presented by the transition to a green economy.

“The data from 2019 and 2014 cannot be compared as there was a change in how the survey was conducted. In fact, ONS has concluded that the low-carbon and renewable energy economy has remained stable.

“We have welcomed the recommendations put forward by the Green Jobs Taskforce, which are a big step forward in delivering the skilled workers and green jobs essential for the UK’s transition to net zero. This will now be considered by the Government, starting with the development of the our Net Zero Strategy, due to be published ahead of the UN’s climate summit Cop26 in Glasgow this November.”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992