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Britain's Labour Party is watering down a green investment pledge. Environmentalists are unimpressed

LONDON (AP) — Environmental groups on Thursday criticized Britain’s opposition Labour Party for ditching a pledge to invest 28 billion pounds ($35 billion) a year in green projects if it wins an upcoming general election.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said the party could no longer commit to the figure because the Conservative government had left the economy in dire condition.

“Interest rates have gone though the roof; we have to adjust,” he said.

The left-of-center party has been out of power since 2010, but leads Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ’s Conservative Party in opinion polls, with a national election due to be held this year.

The 28 billion promise, first made in 2021, has become a major political issue, with the Conservatives accusing Labour of planning a public spending spree that would raise people’s taxes.

Labour said it still plans to hit its goal of generating all Britain’s power from renewable sources by 2030, and to fund green investment through a windfall tax on oil and gas firms.

“It is a plan for more jobs, more investment and cheaper bills,” Starmer said.

Greenpeace said Labour was abandoning green investment that is “hugely popular with voters.”

“The British public and businesses are crying out for a green industrial strategy fit for the 21st century, not a hollowed-out plan with an empty wallet," said Areeba Hamid, co-executive director of Greenpeace U.K.

Alice Harrison, head of fossil fuels campaigning at Global Witness, said the policy change “is a real setback for all those hoping that a Labour government would herald a much-needed shift on tackling the climate crisis.”

The government boasts of Britain being a leader in cutting carbon emissions. It says U.K. greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by half from 1990 levels, mainly because of the almost complete removal of coal from electricity generation. The government has pledged to reduce emissions by 68% of 1990 levels by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2050.

But with seven years to go until the first goalpost, the government’s climate advisers last year called the pace of action “worryingly slow.”

That was before Sunak’s government weakened some of the U.K.’s environmental commitments, postponing a ban on the sale of new gas and diesel cars and issuing new licenses for oil and gas drilling in the North Sea.

Sunak argues that fighting climate change should not impose “unacceptable costs” on ordinary people.