Ed Miliband – 2009 Speech to Labour Party Conference (II)


Below is the text of the speech made by Ed Miliband, the then Energy Secretary, to Labour Party conference on 28th September 2009.

Yesterday, I set out why our manifesto needs to be bold. Today I want to talk about what that means for energy and climate change.

Sometimes we think about climate change as a theoretical prospect for the future. It isn’t, it is a reality today.

Earlier this month with Douglas Alexander I visited some of the 2 million people in Bangladesh that live on sandbanks or chars. Their homes were swept away by floods in 2007.

In the village I visited all but four of them were destroyed.

They are at the frontline of the disaster of climate change and that is why it is essential we get a global deal in Copenhagen.

It’s not just in Bangladesh. In 2007, in my constituency, in Toll Bar , there were people canoeing up and down the high street rescuing their neighbours from first floor windows as the waters rose.

I can’t tell you definitively that this was caused by climate change but what I do know is that the floods will be more frequent, the droughts more severe, the heatwaves more deadly unless we have the boldness to act.

So this Labour government has acted.

That’s why we’re one of the few countries to exceed our Kyoto targets.

And we have stepped up the pace.

The first country to have a legally binding plan to do what the science tells us we need: an 80% reduction in carbon emissions.

Now the world leader in offshore wind generation.

A plan for a house by house, street by street refurbishment of British homes.

A commitment to cut our emissions by a third by 2020,

And a transition plan for Britain for how all this can happen.

It’s true at national level and locally too.

I want to pay tribute to Labour councils leading the way on climate change.

Councils like Manchester which have signed up to the 10:10 campaign, along with businesses and individuals, cutting their emissions by 10% next year.

And working with Jeremy Beecham of the LGA, we will work to ensure all Labour councils and Labour groups will follow their lead.

And it’s to support great councils like Manchester that we are announcing a £10m green neighbourhoods programme today so that twenty areas round Britain can be pioneers for green technology.

And I’ve learnt something over the last year.

It came home to me when I was talking about the threat of climate change to a Labour party member.

He was listening to me talking about the dangers of climate change and said.

‘Ed, Martin Luther King didn’t say ‘ I have a nightmare’ .

He said ‘I have a dream’

That’s not just an argument about how you persuade people

That Labour party member was saying that in tackling climate change, let’s not simply set out to avoid calamity;

Let’s make the transition to low carbon part of our vision of a different kind of country: more prosperous, more secure and fair.

And fundamentally, we are the people to deliver on this vision because of the society we believe in because we understand the role of government and markets.

Markets on their own don’t put a price on carbon

Markets on their own won’t ensure low carbon jobs come to Britain

Markets on their own won’t ensure fairness

That’s why we’ve put an end to a markets-only energy policy.

Take jobs and employment.

We know the world is going to move to low carbon. We know there will be jobs.

The question is where they will be?

Take coal. There is no solution to climate change without a solution for coal.

There is a way forward: carbon capture and storage, which traps 90% of CO2 emissions.

It will be a multi-billion pound industry of the future and could create 30,000-60,000 jobs in this country.

But the idea has been around for ages.

The market won’t deliver on its own.

So government needs to act. And this Labour government is acting.

That’s why in the coming session of parliament, we are proposing to raise billions of pounds to invest in clean coal technology.

And so companies can’t just stick with dirty coal, alongside this investment we are proposing tough environmental conditions for new coal.

It’s our approach which says coal can be a fuel of the future, not just a fuel of the past.

Jobs in coal, jobs in nuclear too.

I didn’t grow up in a pro-nuclear family and I understand the strong feelings  about nuclear power in some parts of our party.

But in my view the challenge of climate change is too big to reject nuclear.

That’s why this government ended the moratorium on nuclear, that’s why we’re right to reform planning laws including for nuclear power and press ahead with plans for new nuclear power.

The trinity of clean power is clean coal, nuclear and renewables.

At the core of renewable energy is wind power.

Last week I announced additional funding for offshore wind and now Clipper Wind power are developing the largest offshore wind blades in the world, larger than a jumbo jet, in the North east of England.

And today I am announcing a further £20m to support research and development in low carbon industries, including in renewables, marine, tidal and wind.

But we need to tell the country, all the funding in the world won’t make us a centre for wind manufacturing if Tory local councils around the country stop wind farms being built.

Sixty percent of wind turbine applications are turned down by Tory Councils.

And doesn’t this highlight a broader truth and reflect the difference between ourselves and our opponents.

If you think we need wind power, the Tories wouldn’t build it.

If you think we need nuclear power, the Liberals wouldn’t build it.

If you think we need clean coal, the Greens, if they have ever had any power,  wouldn’t build it.

The truth is we need all the low carbon energy sources.

All of the other parties would put our green energy security at risk, because they would all say no.

So we’re right for the climate, for jobs and for energy security too.

Because what we know also is that when around two thirds of the world’s gas reserves are in Russia and the Middle East, home-grown energy is the way we stop ourselves being ever more dependent on imports.

Our UK transition plan will mean 40% low carbon energy by 2020, saving us a supertanker of imported gas every four days.

Low carbon energy is also home-grown energy.

Jobs and energy security are the benefits of the low carbon transition.

But we know also, that there are costs too.

Our values mean we are determined to ensure British people, and in particular the poor and the elderly, are protected from the costs that we all know will come as we deal with climate change.

That’s why last year government programmes helped insulate one and a half million families.

It’s why a home gets insulated under warmfront every six minutes.

My view is simple: as we face higher energy bills, we need tougher regulation to protect vulnerable consumers.

That’s why we are legislating to be absolutely clear: the regulator cannot rely on markets alone either to protect consumers or to protect the environment.

It was just wrong that people off the gas grid were charged unfairly for electricity. It was wrong and it has been stopped.

It is wrong if people on pre-payment meters were ripped off. So from this month, the licence conditions for energy companies have changed to stop it happening.

And it’s just wrong that the energy companies can bamboozle the most vulnerable customers and don’t provide clear explanations of what the best tariff is. It’s wrong. It will end. And under this Labour government it will.

And it’s also wrong that social tariffs, reduced rates for the poorest in society, are voluntary and that’s why we are introducing a new compulsory system where the energy companies must provide guaranteed support.

So for us being green is about being bold on jobs and fairness and the environment.

And what about the Tories?

David Cameron is good at green stunts.

The huskies.

The bike – with the car and driver following behind.

The wind turbine on the roof.

But I tell you this.

It’s not green to put a wind turbine on your roof when time after time, wind farm applications are turned down by Tory councils, and then refuse to reform the planning laws.

It’s not green to ride your bike to the House of Commons to vote against investment in green industries this year and next which will create the jobs of the future.

It’s not green to visit the Arctic circle, but when you’re in Europe, pal around on the with climate change deniers as  part of your fringe grouping in European Parliament.

For David Cameron, green politics was a way to try and decontaminate his brand.

Other parties will give you green stunts, empty green promises, we’ll give you real, grown-up, green politics.

Labour are the real greens in British politics today.

We know that the stakes are high. It needs substance not stunts.

And nowhere does it need substance more than internationally.

We heard from the Prime Ministers of Spain and Norway what they are doing alongside the UK to get a deal at Copenhagen.

And I can tell you today that the UK will host the next stage of climate talks in London next month. The Major Economies Forum meeting will be a chance for us to push for more progress, where the 17 countries with the highest greenhouse gas emissions can work towards getting a deal in Copenhagen.

There are 70 days left to the Copenhagen summit.

The point of Copenhagen is to do what has never been done before: get all countries to play their part in tackling global warming.

Why is it so important that we succeed now? Because the science becomes ever-more urgent, and if the world fails now, when will we get the chance to act again?

But in truth, Copenhagen is in peril.

Pressures all around the world are making it increasingly hard to succeed.

The world needs leadership and that is why it is so important that the Prime Minister has said he will go to Copenhagen.

But we also need you.

So be part of the campaigns around Copenhagen, be part of our Labour party campaign.

This is the lesson of history.

Look at the great advances of the past:

– Rights for people at work

– Equal rights for women

– Equality for gays and lesbians

All of them took progressive government, but none could happen without progressive forces in society.

What makes change happen is popular pressure.

We know that change doesn’t just happen because politicians will it to happen

It happens because people demand it happens

People who believe that change can happen.

People who know that defeatism never won a single progressive advance.

The people who make change happen are people who are optimists and idealists

People who believe that we can safeguard the world for future generations:

– We are those people

– We are the idealists

– We are the optimists

We are the people who can make the world a greener, a fairer place.

Let’s go and do it.