Lorna Slater manifesto launch speech general election 2024

Speaking at the Scottish Greens 2024 manifesto launch, Co-leader Lorna Slater laid out plans for a groundbreaking and fully funded Green New Deal investment programme to turbo change Scotland’s transition to net zero. 

This election could not be more important. 

We are hurtling towards climate hell, and it’s plain for all to see.

When we leave this room I want you each to remember three numbers.

Three key numbers that define the challenge ahead and what must be done.

The first number is 5.

We have 5 years to turn things around and avoid catastrophic levels of climate change.

Every month for the last year has set a new global temperature record, and extreme and deadly weather events have become the new norm. 

Earlier this month the UN Secretary-General warned that “the battle to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees will be won or lost in the 2020s.” That means it will be won and lost here in the UK by the next Government. 

A green vote at this election, and a loud green voice in Westminster, could not be more important. 

It could not be more urgent.

The second number I want you to remember is £28 billion.

£28 billion a year of investment in the green economy is perhaps best remembered as a ditched pledge from the Labour party.

Of all of Keir Starmer’s u-turns and broken promises, this one may have been the most reckless and severe. 

The UK has suffered from chronically low levels of investment for decades - under Labour and Tory westminster governments. Their failure to modernise and invest in transport infrastructure, energy and clean industry has been relentlessly damagin for people and planet. It has helped drag us into the low productivity and declining living standards that have become the norm here.

We have a huge opportunity to build a green economy that works for people and planet, but it won’t happen by itself. It needs real action from governments who are willing to deliver it. 

The UKs our green investment is far below the US, France and Germany, for example, and has been for decades. Now other leading economies are at last waking up to the huge opportunity of clean, green energy and the transition to net-zero, and they are investing. 

But what has Westminster done? They’ve doubled down on fossil fuels and cut crucial spending. They’re even imposing a 10% cut in Scotland’s capital budget.

And what does Labour promise? More of the same. They’ve dumped their investment commitment and tied themselves to broken Tory fiscal rules.

Under the Tories and Labour, investment has been neglected and we are being left behind. Only the Greens are committed to reversing this decline.

We are proposing a Green New Deal investment programme. that will increase annual public investment by around £28 billion - or 1% of GDP .

£28 billion of climate spending funded by taxes on the wealthy and big polluters.

Experts say that this is the minimum amount required, and that by leveraging private investment it could raise investment levels to £77 billion.

With this kind of programme we can turbo-charge Scotland’s transition to net-zero and build a green industrial base that will ensure quality jobs and prosperity for communities across Scotland and the UK. 

It will see investment in rail infrastructure, in housing and energy efficiency, and in renewables. 

This investment will be strictly conditional on investing in the supply chain in Scotland and across the UK. By requiring minimum UK produced content in products that benefit from government support. This is what is needed if we are to build turbine components and batteries in Scotland, for example.

For the Scottish Greens, public investment is also about building public wealth. We will bring our National Grid into full public ownership, and support the rest of the UK in bringing their train operators into public ownership as we have done here in Scotland. A people’s railway that delivers for our climate and our communities.

Finally, as Greens we recognise the crucial role that our land, those who manage it, and nature play. 

A Green new deal will see a massive increase in investment in nature restoration. Expanding our native woodlands, restoring peatlands, and protecting wetlands. Our land is our most valuable resource as a nation. It defines us. 

From the water we drink to the air we breathe, it is all dependent on a healthy ecosystem. But perverse subsidies and a failure of Governments red and blue to value nature has left it degraded, exploited and mistreated for generations. Greens will invest in the people, place and jobs that it will take to restore our nature.

The third and final number I want you to remember is 60. 

Globally, we must leave at least 60% of oil and gas in the ground. This is what is needed to comply with our Paris climate commitment -  to keep within a carbon budget that would give us a chance of limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees.

Scotland’s oil and gas are not exempt from this rule. New oil and gas licences and new fossil fuel investments are a fast-track to climate breakdown. They are incompatible with our climate commitments. Any Party or politician that tells you otherwise is, I’m afraid, simply denying basic climate science.

So, here is what the Scottish Greens would do.

We would start by ending tax reliefs - handouts - to the fossil fuel giants. To give you a sense of the scale, these handouts are estimated to be worth £18.1 billion between 2023 and 2026. 

We would require all public sector pensions to divest from fossil fuels. UK local government pension schemes alone are estimated to have £16 billion invested in fossil fuel assets. 

We would ban fossil fuel advertising, and require fossil fuel companies to pay a share of the damages they are causing to society and our planet.

And we would take the action that is needed to cut our reliance on industries that are driving demand for fossil fuels. Nowhere is this more urgent than in the aviation sector. 

Emissions from aviation represent 8% of UK emissions, and just to be clear - the problem is not the annual family holiday. 

1% of the world’s population accounts for half of all aviation emissions. That’s who needs to be targeted, and it’s why the Scottish Greens would introduce a private jet tax and a frequent flyer levy.

This is the bold action and structural change that is needed. It amazes and depresses me, that the other parties are so happy to continue with business as usual, preferring to argue instead over which oil fields they might get away with greenlighting rather than how we can build a green economy.

5 years to take the actions we need to avoid catastrophic climate change

At least 60% of fossil fuels must be left in the ground

At least £28 billion of public investment every year. 

That is our message in this election. The guiding principles in this manifesto, and the minimum we need from the next UK Government.

Low investment is so baked into our political culture, and the conspiracy of silence from the main parties on the scale of investment needed is so strong that when parties like our own propose public investment, the scale of which is backed by evidence, we are immediately met by incredulity. 

That’s why, over the last three decades of Labour and Tory governments, we have fallen so far behind. Ironically, it's those same parties who lament low productivity and growth, but they can’t bring themselves to do the most important thing. To raise funds and invest.

Why would you vote for five more years of the same

When you can vote for real change?

Green proposals in this manifesto clearly set out both how we would spend more, and how we would raise it.

I’ve already talked about the savings we would make simply by ending handouts to fossil fuel giants. But that’s not enough. We need to raise more too.

There is more than enough money in the UK to ensure that everyone can grow up with warmth and security. It is a question of how we redistribute it.

Our proposals for a wealth tax, which are based on analysis by Greenwich university, would do just that. 

An annual wealth tax on the richest 1% households - those with £3.4 million or more in wealth - set at a marginal rate of 1% and raising to 10% for the richest 0.15% - would raise at least £70 billion a year for our NHS, our schools and reversing 14 years of Tory attacks on living standards.

This is the scale of change that is needed to raise the funds we need to invest in the transition to net-zero, and to support modern and fit for purpose public services. But a wealth tax is about much more than simply raising public funds. It’s about addressing the obscene inequalities that successive UK Governments have allowed to grow and grow.

The wealthiest 10% hold 43% of all wealth in this country, and the chasm is growing. That’s not a system that is working, that’s a system that is broken beyond repair.

This inequality is the tip of the iceberg. It drives poverty, and keeps the poor poor. A progressive government must place wealth redistribution and building a more equal society front and centre of its agenda. That’s what the Scottish Greens would do.

Patrick will speak more about how we would do this, so I will finish where I began.

There is no time left for the delusion we have seen from the main Westminster parties. Ditching climate commitments and arguing over which oil fields should go ahead.

There is no time left to postpone the decisive action we need to save the planet and to build a fair and green country.

In this manifesto, we have set out the bold and ambitious change we need, and it needs to happen now.

Don’t waste your vote on small change. 

Vote like your future depends on it. Vote for the Scottish Greens.

Read the manifesto: Vote Like Our Future Depends On It - Scottish Greens

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