RIBA president issues warning on Labour’s green U-turn

The spending pledge, announced in 2021, had been a central plank of Labour’s strategy to reach climate targets and secure green jobs. But earlier this week, the party abandoned it, making a major U-turn that sparked fury from organisations ranging from the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) to Unite, Labour’s biggest union backer.

While the party never made it clear exactly how the £28 billion annual figure would be spent, up to £6 billion a year would have gone towards loans and grants for families to improve home insulation, and £500 million a year would have been spent on grants for companies creating green jobs.

‘With the climate emergency intensifying, 19 million UK homes are still in dire need of upgrading,’ Oki told the AJ.

‘Ambitious and sustained investment from whomever forms the next Government, and the private sector, will be critical to address the scale of this challenge. And there’s a solution. We must future-proof homes with a well-funded National Retrofit Strategy – a long-term plan that will also create jobs, boost green skills and level up the country.

‘Act now, or future generations will pay the price.’

Oki added that the RIBA stood ready ‘to contribute to creating a more sustainable and resilient built environment – to making the future a better place.’

The UKGBC branded Labour’s move a ‘colossally short-sighted political manoeuvre’.

Simon McWhirter, deputy chief executive said: ‘Dialing-up investment in our net zero future is not just the consensus recommendation of the vast majority of industry, business, and society – it is central to Labour’s promise to bring down household energy bills and revitalise the UK’s towns, cities, and infrastructure.

‘Stimulating our green economy with clear, robust policy commitments is the most fiscally prudent and economically beneficial strategy for tackling the UK’s most chronic problems, including energy security, cost of living, long-term health and social challenges and climate breakdown.

‘Political leaders must recognise the green economy for the transformative opportunity it is instead of mischaracterising it as an unaffordable luxury. This is mission-critical for our country, our people, and our planet.’

And climate solutions charity Ashden pointed out that news of Labour’s move coincided with the warmest January on record and scientific confirmation that global temperatures have surpassed the 1.5°C threshold for a full year.

A spokesperson for the charity said: ‘Keeping green policies front and centre, particularly for homes and schools, makes clear economic, social and environmental sense – as well as being supported by the voting public.

Dr Donal Brown, Ashden’s director of UK programmes added: ‘Now is the time that UK political leaders of all hues must show bravery and economic common sense on the green agenda.’

The Labour party has been approached for comment.