Green party conference opens with call for wealth tax to fund renewables

<span>Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

The Greens have kicked off their conference with a call for taxes on wealth and “dirty profits” to finance the transition to renewable energy – and a condemnation of Labour’s plans, unveiled last week, as woefully insufficient.

At the gathering in Harrogate, days after a Labour conference based heavily around clean power initiatives, the Green party in England and Wales – the Scottish Greens are separate – repeatedly stressed policy differences not just over renewables but also areas such as support for strikers and public ownership.

The party’s co-leaders, Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay, pledged in a joint speech that they would introduce an emergency tax package to fund renewable energy and a scheme for mass domestic insulation.

The pair were elected on a promise to focus less on links with activists such as Extinction Rebellion and more on pushing for greater electoral success, overseeing significant gains in May’s local elections.

Introduced as “the country’s next Green MPs” – both are standing in target seats, Denyer in Bristol and Ramsay in Suffolk – they also condemned the impact of Liz Truss’s government, calling it “nothing short of dangerous”.

Their tax scheme, Denyer said, would target the richest 1% of households based on their wealth rather than income, while the dirty profits tax would be aimed at the biggest polluters.

As well as a programme of insulation and green energy, the money would be used to freeze energy prices at the level they were last October, and to bring the big five energy retailers into public ownership, along with the main utilities.

“The Green party wants to see these crucial services – energy, water, transport – back in public hands where they belong, where decisions are made for the good of you and your family, for people, not to line the pockets of shareholders,” Denyer said.

“With these policies, and our core aim to transform society for the benefit of all, it is no surprise that former Labour voters are finding their home with us.”

The Labour conference took place under the slogan “a fairer, greener future”, one openly lifted from the Greens’ local election campaign this May. For its conference, the Green party adapted it to “a fairer, greener country”.

As well as the co-leaders, other Greens mocked Labour for what was described as a sudden if unconvincing shift to green terrain.

“It’s interesting to see Labour take up recycling – our slogans,” the party’s chief executive, Mary Clegg, told delegates. “That won’t make them Green.”

In another pointed message to Keir Starmer’s party, Green delegates will march from the conference centre on Saturday to join a picket line of striking rail workers from the RMT and Aslef unions.

In his sections of the speech, Ramsay attacked Truss’s government for the resumption of fracking and other moves to roll back green protections. “It’s no overstatement to say that our natural environment is under direct threat from our own government,” he said.

Attacking the calamitous mini-budget a week ago, which cut taxes predominantly for wealthier Britons and sparked a crisis with the pound and government debt, Ramsay said this was happening in the context of many working people being unable to pay bills or even eat properly.

“Rich people are getting richer and everyone else is getting poorer and more anxious, and the new prime minister is – as we suspected – doing everything she can to maintain that status quo,” he said.

“She has doubled down on the Tories’ lack of compassion and awareness for people’s real-life concerns as the cost of living crisis is allowed to continue and gather pace. This government is nothing short of dangerous.”