Interest-free government loans should be made available to help up to a million households buy electric cars over the next two years, the shadow business secretary, Ed Miliband, is to argue.
In a speech on Thursday, Miliband will set out Labour’s plans for an “electric vehicle revolution” to promote a rapid increase in the take-up of electric cars as the UK moves towards net zero carbon.
With Boris Johnson already promising a “green industrial revolution” to bring new jobs to former industrial areas, Labour is keen to underline the fact that its own plans would be more radical.
Miliband will say a Labour government would:
o part-finance three more gigafactories by 2025 to build the batteries for electric vehicles;
o fund interest-free loans for low- and middle-income households to help them cope with the upfront costs of buying an electric car;
o accelerate the creation of charging points, including in less well-served areas including Yorkshire, the north west of England and the West Midlands.
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, recently announced GBP20m to help fund new charging points, as the government works towards its target of ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030 – but Labour believes the government is not acting fast enough.
In prereleased remarks, Miliband said: “To back the car industry and create jobs, Labour would bring forward ambitious proposals to spark an electric vehicle revolution in every part of the country.
“By extending the option to buy an electric car to those on lower incomes and accelerating the rollout of charging points in regions that have been left out, we would ensure that everyone could benefit.”
Labour estimates the cost to the government of each 100,000 new vehicles paid for via loans at GBP156m, and argues that the taxpayer should be willing to fund up to 1m purchases over the next two years. Last year 108,205 electric vehicles were sold, up 180% on a year earlier.
They argue this would help to create new jobs in the industry by giving manufacturers certainty about future demand – and the funding should form part of a total GBP30bn investment in green jobs.
In his speech, Miliband will stress the importance of tackling deep inequalities in the UK, at the same time as confronting the climate emergency.
Keir Starmer has repeatedly pointed to dealing with inequality as one of the political dividing lines between his party and the government, highlighting the fact that some of the poorest households were those left most exposed to the Covid pandemic.
Miliband is expected to say: “What we cannot do is put a green coat of paint on our unequal, insecure economy. Every worker whose job might change, every consumer who may face a change in what they pay, every single person in this country has got to be at the centre of our concerns. This is the DNA of Labour: green and fair. Green and red together.”
Miliband is keen to show that Labour remains as committed to the cause of environmentalism as it was under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Plans for a “green industrial revolution” were at the heart of the 2019 manifesto – a phrase since appropriated by the Tories.
The government is hoping for a successful outcome from the crucial Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in November, as Johnson tries to rebuild the UK’s reputation as a collaborative global player in the wake of Brexit.
Climate is expected to be on the agenda when the G7 nations meet in June – a gathering the prime minister hopes can be held in Cornwall, if coronavirus travel restrictions allow.