Keir Starmer tells Davos UK will lead global 'clean power alliance' if he becomes PM

Opposition leader goads Rishi Sunak for his no-show at World Economic Forum

Keir Starmer, leader of Britain's Labour Party, at a World Economic Forum panel discussion in Davos. Bloomberg
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Keir Starmer has used an appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos to call for a “clean power alliance” to speed up climate action.

The leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party said the “single biggest challenge” facing the world in the fight against global warming is the fact that climate change denial has given way to a culture of delay in climate action.

He goaded UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for failing to show up to the gathering at the Swiss ski resort.

During a panel discussion, it was put to Mr Starmer that the polls suggest he has a high chance of becoming Britain’s next prime minister.

He took the opportunity to push his green agenda which he would take forward if he enters Downing Street.

He touched on Labour’s “ambitious” plan for a new, publicly owned energy company dubbed Great British Energy, which was unveiled at last year’s party conference.

He said his first visit to the summit at Davos had given him the opportunity to speak to CEOs of business and investors “who would partner with us if we were in government”.

“One of the things that I am proposing is a clean power alliance where countries who are in the advance when it comes to net zero, would share information, co-operate and share investment with a view to driving the global prices down.”

He said the aim of such an initiative would be to drive down prices of energy “then see the common benefit whether it’s in the UK or across the globe”.

He has pledged to make the UK a clean energy superpower by 2030 and create a publicly-owned energy company within Labour’s first year in office.

He said that under a Labour government, there would be no new investment in oil and gas.

“What we’ve said about oil and gas is there does need to be a transition.

“Obviously, it will play its part during that transition, but not new investment, not new fields up in the North Sea, because we need to go towards net-zero, we need to ensure that renewable energy is where we go next.”

Davos in pictures

Mr Starmer said his immediate focus is on the cost-of-living crisis. The Conservative government has offered households reductions in their energy bills, funded by a windfall tax on oil and gas companies in the North Sea.

The approach is a mere “sticking plaster” for the problem, Mr Starmer said, as he promoted his vision for a green alliance.

If Labour won the next election, he said no new drilling projects would be unveiled in the North Sea, he said.

“What we need is a strategy for renewables that binds together the challenge of high bills, energy security so that we're not so exposed, globally to Putin or whatever, the next generation of jobs that will come as we rush towards renewables and our obligations in relation to the climate crisis,” he said.

“That requires all countries including my own to show global leadership in this to bring countries together.”

The Labour leader used his platform to criticise Mr Sunak's decision to skip the event.

“I think our Prime Minister should have showed up at Davos,” he told the audience.

He said he and Labour's Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves were in attendance “as a statement of intent that should there be a change of government — and I hope there will be — the UK will play its part on the global stage in a way I think it probably hasn't in recent years”.

Downing Street said Mr Sunak “continues to focus on delivering for the British people” as he made a series of visits across the north of England to highlight his £2.1 billion levelling-up spending.

A No 10 spokesman said: “I’d also point to the fact we’ve been actively represented in Davos by the Business Secretary and the Trade Secretary who were there to build relationships with other countries around the world while making sure the UK’s voice is heard.”

He pointed towards the Cop27 climate summit and G20 conference among other events to argue “we are active on the international stage and we will continue to be”.

Updated: January 19, 2023, 4:36 PM