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The Friday Digest: Labour accused of weakness over green retreat

It’s been a tough week for environmental policy on both side of the English Channel. On Thursday, as Footprint went to press, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was set to confirm that his party’s flagship pledge to spend £28bn a year until 2030 on green investment schemes if it wins the next election has been dropped. It follows weeks of flip-flopping and speculation over the future of the ‘green prosperity plan’ which was first revealed in 2021 but has ultimately fallen victim to Labour’s determination to prioritise fiscal prudence ahead of an election expected later this year.

Campaigners were quick to point out the folly as they saw it in Labour’s move. “Dropping the green investment pledge would be weak political, economic and climate leadership from Starmer before he’s even got his feet under the table,” said Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK. “Investing around £28bn extra per year in green technologies of the future will be needed from any future government willing to fix this broken country, insulate our homes, better our health, restore nature, improve public transport and slash emissions.”

Across the channel, EU politicians have also been backtracking on green policies following farmer protests throughout the bloc. The FT reported that commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, has made a series of concessions that include allowing land that was meant to be left aside for nature conservation to be farmed instead. The paper also reported that a reference to a 30% reduction target in methane, nitrogen and other gases linked to farming was removed at the last minute from a EU roadmap for achieving 90% net greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2040 that is designed as a staging post in the target to reduce net emissions by 100% by 2050. 

The timing of the cross-Channel row-back was unfortunate to say the least, coinciding as it did with the news that in 2023 global warming exceeded 1.5°C across an entire year for the first time. The period from February 2023 to January 2024 reached 1.52°C of warming, according to the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Such an alarming statistic should only hasten business efforts to hit their own decarbonisation targets. In that vein, brewing giant Carlsberg reported this week that it has cut relative carbon emissions at its breweries by 7% since 2022, and by 59% since 2015. It has also delivered a 16% reduction in relative value chain carbon emissionsfrom 2015-2022. The business is aiming to achieve zero emissions at its breweries by 2030 and a net-zero value chain by 2040. Carlsberg is also targeting that 100% of raw materials are sourced from regenerative agricultural practices and are sustainably sourced by 2040. To this end it promised to scale pilots running in France, UK and Finland that produced 6,927 tonnes of regeneratively grown barley for its Kronenbourg 1664, Carlsberg and KOFF beers in 2023.

Also covered in this week’s Footprint weekly news is the final report from The Times Health Commission that calls for new taxes to tackle obesity; research showing the benefits of putting food at the heart of prison life; and evidence showing how racial diversity is still lacking within environmental charities.

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