Energy should be brought back wholesale into common ownership, the co-founder of the new Labour for a Green New Deal campaign has urged.

Clare Hymer told the campaign’s launch event in the House of Commons yesterday that public ownership was key to its goal of decarbonising the UK by 2030.

She said: “Currently we don’t have capacity in the private industry to do this. Over the past four decades the market has demonstrated its complete inability to tackle the climate crisis and creating public owned renewable energy would enable us to decarbonise within a decade.”

“Fundamentally, we don’t think energy should be profited from: it’s a public good and we want it to be a universal service”,
Hymer said. “Expanding democratic control over industry and services means taking many industries into public and community ownership including the energy industry.”

Labour’s official position, adopted at the last general election, backs nationalisation of the energy networks but stops short of extending this to suppliers.

Clive Lewis MP, shadow Treasury minister for sustainable economics, told the event that a Green New Deal would require a “systemic” economic change that transcends replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy.

Criticising government plans that would continue to see fossil fuels being burnt until the middle of the century, he said: “It’s like saying the house is on fire and we’re going to reduce the amount of petrol we are putting on: that’s the scale of the challenge.”

Lewis also warned that an incoming Labour government would face a “thorny” decision about whether to borrow on an ‘unprecedented” scale to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband, who chaired the launch, said the campaign for a Green New Deal, offered an issue around which the fractured opposition party can rally.

“This is pretty fundamental to uniting the country because post Brexit, Britain needs to have a big mission about what it’s about and what it’s doing. There is no bigger emergency or more urgent issue that we face. Whether approaching from the climate or social injustice, this is the thing to bring people together.”

Lauren Townsend, trade union official and Labour councillor in Milton Keynes, said that 75 constituency Labour parties had passed motions backing the campaign with 41 submitting motions to the party’s annual conference this September, calling for the Green New Deal to become its official policy.