Labour should not scale back the climate change policies it set out in its 2019 manifesto, Ed Miliband has said – after Keir Starmer’s office suggested a 2030 target could be shifted back because of lost time.

The shadow business and energy secretary told an online meeting of Labour activists on Wednesday that he was “not in this job to scale back on ambition”.

“I don’t resile one iota from the manifesto,” Mr Miliband told the call, organised by pressure group Labour for a Green New Deal, adding that the policies were “completely right on the ambition we need over the next decade”.

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A spokesperson for Sir Keir said last week that Labour had lost the election and thus time to implement a decarbonisation programme, and that its new policy would be set in four or five years time.

The comments provoked concern from Labour MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, with 21 left-wingers in the PLP writing to the leadership to call for the plan to be kept in place.

Critics said the opposition party should keep up the pressure on the government to implement the plan while in opposition.

Labour had committed to substantial progress towards net zero carbon by 2030 in the manifesto, largely on the back of massive state investment in green technology.

Lauren Townsend, Spokesperson for Labour for a Green New Deal, the pressure group that organised the call with Mr Miliband, said: “It was encouraging to hear Ed Miliband’s commitment to slashing emissions by 2030, and an improved stance on aviation. With the Arctic burning and unemployment soaring, now is the time for the Labour leadership to push for a truly transformative Green New Deal.

“As we made clear to the Labour frontbench, this has to mean expanding our commitments to public ownership across the economy, creating millions of green jobs and building a fairer, cleaner, greener economy post-covid. Amid economic, health and climate crises, Labour members expect Keir Starmer to keep to his promise to ‘put the Green New Deal at the heart of everything we do’. Now is the time to step up.”

Mr Miliband is working with shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds to devise a green recovery programme that would use environmental projects to kick-start recovery from coronavirus.

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Launching the consultation in May the former Labour leader said he wanted “a contemporary equivalent of what happened after 1945”.

Keir Starmer’s spokesperson had told reporters: “The last manifesto made a number of really important commitments on this, which Keir supported, but we lost the election and Labour lost five years in government to tackle climate change. The next manifesto, the next target, will be written in four or five years’ time and we’ll have to deal with the circumstances we are in then.”

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that the world must reach net zero carbon by 2050 if global warming is to be kept below 1.5C, an irreversible threshold over which climate disaster quickly intensifies.

But richer countries are expected to reach net zero faster to give more room for developing countries to grow. Finland has said it will go carbon neutral by 2035, and Sweden 2045.

The UK’s current target is 2050, in line with the IPCC’s deadline. It was enshrined into law by Theresa May and superceded a previous target introduced under Gordon Brown in 2008 of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

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