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Sunday, June 16, 2024
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HomeElection WatchTo Net Zero and beyond – the world according to Ed Miliband

To Net Zero and beyond – the world according to Ed Miliband

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With a Labour victory a mere formality in the forthcoming General Election, attention is being focused on key members of the shadow cabinet. With the climate emergency and Net Zero being number one priorities for voters up and down the UK, Ed Miliband, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, will be front and centre in this vital battle. TCW’s Environment Correspondent met him to learn more of his goals.

ASK anyone about Ed Miliband and they will invariably mention the bacon sandwich photo or the much-derided pledge tombstone. This is a great pity because there is so much more to this passionate and principled politician. Despite a lacklustre term as Labour leader, this is one individual who can hold his head up high, having steered the hugely important Climate Change Act through Parliament in 2008.

It is the mastery of his brief and his acknowledged expertise in the field of climate change that single him out as one of the ablest politicians – yet least acknowledged – of the modern era.

I meet him at his Westminster office to discuss what his priorities will be going forward. I start by asking if the UK is on track to reach Net Zero.

‘This is a hugely complicated area, but thankfully more and more people realise that getting to Net Zero is not some woolly-headed pipe dream, but an actual legally binding commitment that will be of huge benefit to mankind. Labour will govern as a party that will not shy away from making controversial, and let me be clear, occasionally unpopular decisions, that will ensure Net Zero is not a goal, but a specifically deliverable objective. We will deliver on this promise.’

There has been talk of faltering electric car sales with plummeting resale values, uncontrollable fires, range anxiety, exorbitant insurance premiums and prohibitive battery replacement costs. Are these impediments surmountable?

‘Absolutely. Look, people have got to understand that electric cars are the way forward, abundant clean energy and non-polluting vehicles should be something every motorist is clamouring for. The issues you mention are just nothing, part of the issue is a right-wing press determined to promote the indefensible use of polluting petrol cars. I only hope that more local mayors take their cue from the terrific work Sadiq Khan has done in London and introduce low traffic neighbourhoods, ULEZ zones and pay-per-mile driving.’

Where does he stand on gas boilers?

He sits back and laughs. ‘No, we are not going to see pensioners freezing in their armchairs despite what the Daily Mail might say. However, we cannot sit idly by and let people destroy the planet by continuing to use equipment that merely adds to our carbon footprint. Ground source and air source heat pumps have consistently been shown to provide adequate heating and hot water, and we [Labour Government] will provide generous subsidies to facilitate a greater uptake of these fantastic devices.’

What will happen if a sizeable proportion of the population simply refuse to install them?

‘Well, we would quite obviously have to look at some form of compulsion, be that via new legislation, or possibly making it a criminal offence punishable by prison to operate a gas boiler domestically.’

It seems incomprehensible that such an avowed libertarian should resort to jail threats to force policy through. Is this part of Labour’s policy?

‘The Climate Emergency is the single greatest existential threat facing mankind today. It is a bigger menace than war, famine and pandemics combined. There is not a single scientist of any credibility anywhere in the world who would dissent from this view. That is why I am committed to do as much as I can in Government to make the UK the standard bearer for all that is good in Net Zero.’

What happens when the UK reaches Net Zero? How will we know and how will it be celebrated?

‘I cannot wait for the day when Sir Keir Starmer or possibly King Charles announces that Great Britain is Net Zero. I would like to think it will be marked by street parties across the nation – children and adults alike dancing under Union Jack-bedecked streets, illuminated by candles long into the night, feasting on organic turnips and potato wine. I hope that the historic date itself would then be celebrated annually with a service of remembrance.

‘One idea under consideration currently would be to have statues of individuals who have played a key role in the climate fight erected in various municipalities. Perhaps a granite Chris Packham in Croydon, a resin Lord Deben in Dartford or a bronze Greta Thunberg in Whitehall at which the public could line up, heads bowed in humble silent appreciation and recognition of the towering sacrifices these individuals made.’

Finally, I ask, what if the whole carbon neutral thesis is proved to be complete baloney?

He looks at me quizzically, genuinely confused at my question. His voice becomes more adenoidal and he stands up extending his hand, indicating that the meeting is over.

‘Don’t be ridiculous, the evidence is all around us,’ he says coldly.

I walk out into a warm and sunny May afternoon – climate change in action.

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Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin
Alexander McKibbin is a retired media executive who worked across domestic and international media.

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