Labour’s second biggest union backer has warned Jeremy Corbyn against shutting down the gas industry as part of a push to decarbonise the energy system.

Last weekend, the Labour leader pledged that tackling climate change required radical action.

And Corbyn said that once it had been brought back into public ownership by Labour, the energy system would be charged with a mission to curb greenhouse gases.

Justin Bowden, national secretary for energy at the GMB union welcomed the opposition’s commitment to invest in renewables but said it should not lead to the shut down of the gas industry and a throttling of investment in nuclear power.

He said: “Labour must give very careful consideration to ensuring that unintended consequences of those plans do not result in a shutdown of the gas industry or a halt to new nuclear, which are both essential in a balanced energy mix.

“GMB is fully behind the transition to renewables and everyone gets how renewable energy has an ever more important role to play. But we also need to heat homes, keep the lights on and the economy functioning.

“Unless and until there are technological breakthroughs in carbon capture or solar and wind storage, nuclear power and gas are the only reliable sources of energy for when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.”

Bowden warned Labour about the ramifications of a mass switchover from gas to electricity in the heating network.

He said: “Gas is several times cheaper than electricity – over 80 per cent of UK homes use gas for heating. Access to gas is a key part of every fuel poverty strategy.

“Quadrupling the size of the electricity infrastructure and asking everyone with a gas boiler to rip it out and replace it with an electric one is a non-starter that hard pressed voters will not tolerate. Nor should we have to depend on Russia, Qatar or Kuwait to supply us with gas to heat our homes and supply industry.”

The GMB is the UK’s second biggest trade union and commands a big share of the votes at Labour’s annual conference, which is the ultimate decision-making body on party policy.

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