CONFERENCE SPEECH: Ed Miliband, Shadow Business Energy and Industrial Strategy
Speech by Ed Miliband MP
Labour’s Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary
Friends it’s great to be back. Last time I spoke to you I was leader of our party.
Remember David Cameron’s warning. “Britain faces a simple and inescapable choice – stability and strong Government with me, or chaos with Ed Miliband.” Didn’t work out so well for him did it?
Or more to the point for the country. Instability? Weak government? Chaos? Friends, I didn’t get everything right.
But I’ll tell you one thing: I’d have done a damn sight better than this miserable shower. I want to thank you, party members, for having kept me going.
There is a lesson in all this. We don’t give up. And we don’t give in.
We stay and we fight. Not for our own sake but for the big causes that brought us into politics.
That’s why I’m still here when my past opponents – Cameron, Clegg, Osborne – are all gone.
Today I want to talk to you about the biggest cause of all, the cause I came back to fight.
The climate crisis where the future threat of yesterday is the devastating reality of today.
We have seen it all too clearly this summer around the world and this is just a foretaste of what is to come if we don’t act.
As David Attenborough has said, the decisions we make in the next few years will “profoundly affect the next few thousand years.” So, to our generation, is given a unique responsibility that we cannot shirk.
We are at five minutes to midnight. We cannot deny the crisis we confront. There is still time to act but only just.
That is why the stakes are so high. That is why we need a Labour government. And I am here to tell you not just that we must confront the climate crisis but that as we do we can and must confront the other great cause of our time.
The scar of inequality. The glaring gaps in wealth and income between the richest and everyone else.
An economy based on low pay and insecurity, which simply does not have enough of the good jobs at good wages that the British people have a right to expect.
This crisis is a deep, moral shame on our country. As we respond to the climate crisis with all the transformation that entails, we have a fateful choice to make:
We could try and put a green coat of paint on an unfair, unequal, unjust Britain. Or we can make a different choice and see the opportunity in front of us to change our economy and society.
For a green Britain where there is an irreversible shift of income, power and wealth to working people. A green Britain where we deliver good secure, unionised jobs for people across our country. A green Britain where there is clean air and green spaces for everyone everywhere in our country. A green Britain where there are warm affordable homes for all, wherever they live and where we end fuel poverty. A green Britain where public and alternative models of ownership play their proper role in making the transition affordable, secure and fair.
I know what choice we need to make. Britain needs a fairer economy. Britain needs a green industrial revolution. Britain needs a green new deal. This is the cause I came back to fight for.
Now I get that some people think it can’t be done. Some say that if we put the climate crisis front and centre of our agenda that we will not solve and may deepen the wounds of economic and social injustice.
Don’t go too fast they say. They worry that families already struggling to pay their heating bills will struggle even more.
About workers in oil and gas. Let me say to those people, including in this hall, I get your worries. I grew up in the 1980s.
I am an MP in Doncaster. A former mining constituency.
We remember what the Tories did. I know our responsibility – this climate transition must leave no worker, no family, no community behind.
If we fail that test we won’t take you or the British people with us and we won’t deserve to do so. I tell this conference – our party cannot, will not, must not shirk the fight for economic justice.
Now at the same time as those saying we are going too fast, there are others who worry that no government, no political party is doing enough to tackle this climate threat, including in this hall. They say we are going too slowly.
They believe we are on course to leave the most awful legacy in human history and they are right.
If we do not act on climate, it won’t be the richest or the most powerful who suffer it will be the poorest and most vulnerable, here and around the world.
I say to them: our party cannot, will not, must not shirk the fight for climate justice.
This then is our historic responsibility. To be the party of green and red together. To be the party of climate and economic justice together.
Let me tell you, if we don’t do it nobody else will. Can the Tories do it? No way.
Friends, the Tories are not climate deniers, they are something even more dangerous. They talk green but fail to act. They refuse to rise to the scale of the emergency and they will not make the investments we need.
They are climate ditherers. They are climate pretenders. They are climate delayers.
When it comes to COP26 in Glasgow in November, the most important climate conference ever held, Boris Johnson is the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. That isn’t just bad for the planet, it costs the British people.
Gas prices are surging here not because we have done too much to go green but because we haven’t done enough. That’s why we are so vulnerable to the price instability of the international gas market.
The Tory cuts to home insulation means greater energy use, it costs the planet and it costs the British people. The Tory moratorium on onshore wind, cuts to solar subsidies and failure to move forward on nuclear costs the planet and it costs the British people. The Tory failure to have a green recovery and invest in the industries of the future costs the planet and it costs the British people.
Let’s be clear friends, this energy price crisis is a disaster made in Downing Street, a disaster caused by a decade of Tory climate inaction. Of course they are making the cost of living crisis far worse by cutting Universal credit.
If they really cared about the cost of living crisis, if they really cared about the fuel poor, it’s time to cancel the cut in universal credit that takes place in just five days’ time.
Let’s lay to rest the idea that these Tories can somehow manage a just or fair green transition. A couple of months back Boris Johnson was challenged on Tory credentials on climate change.
He joked that Mrs Thatcher closed the pits and gave us a head start. This guy laughing about people losing their jobs, communities losing their lifeblood, generations losing hope. How dare he?
How dare this arrogant, contemptuous, cruel, shameless, duplicitous, out of touch charlatan, laugh about the devastation of coalfield communities.
It tells you so much about who he really is, who they really are. I say this: our country desperately needs the decency, integrity and values of Keir Starmer over the double-dealing, duplicity and dishonesty of Boris Johnson.
They fail on climate and they fail on fairness and all the while we lose the most precious gift of all: time. That is why it falls to us to seize the moment and tackle the crisis in this decisive decade
So let me tell you what we would do. Look at what Joe Biden is doing in the United States with a ten-year plan to invest at scale in the green transition. That’s what we need to do here.
The most unaffordable, irresponsible, reckless choice is not to invest. It makes sense to invest now because we relieve the burden we place on future generations. It makes sense to invest now because not acting will cost more than acting. It makes sense to invest now because it will enable us to create wealth, jobs and lead the world in the industries of the future.
Take steel – a massive test of whether we get the green transition right. Steel is a vital strategic industry for our country, crucial for our national security and the foundation of our manufacturing industry. It provides tens of thousands of jobs for our communities.
But here is the challenge. We need to green steel. It’s more than 10 percent of our manufacturing emissions.
The Tories are woefully failing to make our steel industry strong for the future. Their delay, their inaction, is a recipe for throwing tens of thousands of workers on the scrapheap.
Under Labour, we won’t let it happen. If we want a future for steel, we have to invest and we will.
So today I can announce we are making an unprecedented 10-year commitment for the steel industry to go green, investing up to £3 billion, in collaboration with business, over the coming decade.
We will make the steel industry not simply a proud industry of our past and present but a proud industry of our future. No other country is yet showing the same ambition.
That’s what I mean by a green industrial revolution. That’s what I mean by delivering climate justice and economic justice together.
Same with our car industry. Vital to the climate fight, vital to the strength of our economy, and providing tens of thousands of jobs in communities across our country.
The Tories are losing the global race for electric car manufacturing. That’s why a Labour government would help fund the investment in the gigafactories we need.
Not just subsidy but public equity stakes taken by government to ensures a people’s dividend from the green transition. That’s what I mean by delivering climate justice and economic justice together.
The green industrial revolution is about no worker being left behind. We need the skills, expertise, know-how of the people who work in fossil fuel industries for our zero-carbon future.
People say under the Tories the low carbon jobs have not been delivered and they are right. We would change that.
That’s why we would increase the investment in our ports and it’s time our world leading status in offshore wind generation finally led to jobs for workers in the UK.
So, we will raise the requirements for domestic content so we can buy, make and sell British, not the Tory offshoring of jobs in offshore wind. That’s what we mean by delivering climate justice and economic justice together.
Just because a job is in a green industry it doesn’t give a free pass on rights and protections at work. Jobs in our renewable industries should be good jobs at decent wages with strong trade unions.
That is what we mean by delivering climate justice and economic justice together and this is just the start: Climate education in our schools; a net zero and nature test for every policy; climate apprenticeships for our young people.
Working with our brilliant Labour local authorities to push ahead with local Green New Deals. That’s what we mean by delivering climate justice and economic justice together.
Just as business is a crucial partner in making the transition happen, so they must be accountable for playing their part. Many of our leading companies are already ahead of the government in setting ambitious climate targets. But we need the rest to step up.
A Labour government will require every major business to tell us their carbon footprint and how it is consistent with net zero. That’s what we mean by delivering climate justice and economic justice together.
Under a Labour government, every department will be a climate department. Every department delivering climate justice and economic justice together.
There is a lesson for us in the climate crisis. Tinkering around the edges will not answer the defining challenges of this century. We must match the crises of our time with the scale of our response.
So let us resolve today to be the first country in the world to implement a Green New Deal. A Green industrial revolution.
Good jobs at decent wages. Nurturing and supporting our great businesses. Protecting the planet for future generations. The morally responsible, fiscally responsible choice.
Delivering climate justice and economic justice together. This is the cause I returned to fight for. This is the cause that summons our party. This is the cause of our day, our decade, our generation. This is the cause that is the destiny of our country.
For the sake of ourselves and generations to come, let us fight with everything we have because the whole future far beyond our own time depends upon us.