Corbyn’s environmental and energy manifesto says that fracking is ‘not compatible with climate change prevention’. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian
In the clearest signal yet that the party intends to embrace an ambitious environmental agenda and break its traditional strong links to mining and fossil fuel extraction, he pledged to phase out all coal power stations by the “early 2020s” and invest heavily in energy-saving to avoid building many new power stations.
But rival leadership candidate Owen Smith said the plan was unambitious and accused the Labour leader of backtracking.
Corbyn’s environment and energy manifesto, launched on Wednesday in Nottingham, a former centre of the mining industry and a potential future site of fracking, states that the controversial technique for extracting shale gas “is not compatible with climate change prevention”.
He said in Nottingham: “Research shows that as much as 80% of known fossil fuel reserves must remain unburned if the world is to keep global temperature rises to 2C [above pre-industrial levels]”.
“When Labour gets back into power, Britain will lead the world in action on climate change. We will act to protect the future of our planet, with social justice at the heart of our environment policies, and take our fair share of action to meet the Paris climate agreement – starting by getting on track with our climate change act goals.
“We want Britain to be the world’s leading producer of renewables technology. To achieve this we will accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, and drive the expansion of the green industries and jobs of the future.”
The manifesto includes a commitment to create over 300,000 renewable energy jobs and to set a target of 65% of UK electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
In addition, Labour would invest heavily in energy saving, making building insulation a national infrastructure priority.
“We will launch a publicly funded National Home Insulation programme that would see at least 4m homes insulated. This would create tens of thousands of jobs across every community, reducing the need for expensive new energy generation, and helping millions of people to save money on their bills,” Corbyn said.
But Smith, who is challenging Corbyn, was critical of the manifesto. “It’s impossible for Jeremy Corbyn to speak with credibility on environmental policy. He’s called for the reintroduction of deeply damaging opencast coal mining, only had one meeting with his shadow environment team in nine months as leader, and didn’t utter a word of protest when Theresa May scrapped the Department for Energy and Climate Change,” said a spokesperson for Smith.
“Corbyn does not even mention Hinkley point and nuclear power, despite the fact that nuclear stations currently provide almost a quarter of UK electricity and there are contentious plans for new nuclear stations.”
Friends of the Earth welcomed his commitment to ban fracking. Liz Hutchins, senior political strategist, said: “He is right to commit to ban fracking and Smith should make the same clear commitment. The Liberal Democrats and the Green party have called for a ban because of threats to health and the environment. It is now banned or halted in Scotland, Wales, France, Germany and New York state.”
Corbyn responded to growing calls for government to commit to matching all existing EU environmental directives if Britain leaves the EU. He said he would safeguard all existing protection laws including the birds and habitats directives, and air pollution standards, and added that he would refuse to agree to any Brexit deal that reduced nature protection of nature.
Environmental lawyers ClientEarth welcomed this but called on the Labour leader to go further. The group’s CEO, James Thornton, said: “We need to keep the EU protections we have now. They have served our country well. Once they are secure, we can start strengthening protections for wildlife and the environment.
“But if Corbyn is fully signed up to protecting the environment and tackling the UK’s air pollution crisis then we also would urge him to back our calls for a new Clean Air Act.
Other initiatives pledged include reinstating the energy and climate change department, which was abolished in July, and supporting a proposal to mobilise schools and communities to help plant 64 million trees in 10 years to help to tackle the UK’s air pollution crisis.
In addition to promoting the growth of over 200 “local energy companies” and making public, not-for-profit companies and co-ops the centrepiece of a new energy economics, the Labour manifesto intends to support the development of 1,000 community energy co-operatives, with rights to sell energy directly to the localities they serve.