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Tories ‘slipping from climate delay to denial’, Ed Miliband claims

Shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband attending the Green Alliance event (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband attending the Green Alliance event (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Ed Miliband has accused the Conservatives under Rishi Sunak of slipping from “climate delay to denial”, as he made a pitch to voters on green issues.

The shadow energy security and net zero secretary claimed the Prime Minister was willing to stoke culture wars on climate change, but that did not reflect the views of British people and risked damaging the country’s future.

But the Conservatives claimed Labour’s plans to decarbonise the grid by 2030 – rather than 2035 as they have pledged – would raise taxes, while they had a plan to cut emissions in a “pragmatic way”.

In a speech to the Green Alliance think tank, Mr Miliband warned the forthcoming general election was the most important on climate and energy the UK has ever had.

It comes in the face of worsening global warming – with the UN on Tuesday confirming 2023 was the hottest year on record – as well as the economic opportunities of net zero, greater energy security from switching from fossil fuels to renewables, and Britain’s role as a leader on the issue.

The event heard from Green Alliance on how just half (52%) of the emissions cuts the government has a legal obligation to deliver between 2028 and 2032 are covered by confirmed policy, and 16% had no policies.

And industry body Energy UK’s Emma Pinchbeck highlighted the international competition for capital investment from places including the US, EU and Japan.

Mr Miliband  claimed: “There is a stark election choice: Labour’s case for climate action as the route to lower energy bills, energy security, good jobs and doing our duties by future generations against a Conservative party slipping from climate delay into denial which will mean higher bills, energy insecurity, fewer jobs and betrayal of future generations.”

And he said: “Families across the country are united in their desire for good jobs, lower bills, cleaner water, and a green and pleasant home that we can leave for our children.

“Instead of embracing this mainstream majority, Rishi Sunak is willing to give up the fight for lower bills and energy security because he wants to stoke the fires of a culture war”.

He claimed there was “nothing Conservative” about the Tories’ current approach, which amounted to “vote blue to be anti-green”, and urged voters to turn to Labour to deliver on climate action.

He restated the commitments Labour has made on green issues, including decarbonising the power sector by 2030, new North Sea oil and gas licences, a new publicly owned energy company, a national wealth fund and investing £13.2 billion in energy efficiency for homes over the next parliament.

Mr Miliband was speaking in the wake of Labour’s decision to abandon its pledge to spend £28 billion a year on green measures, which saw them come under fire first from the Tories for the commitment, then from campaigners and some in industry for scaling back on it.

But he said the Labour party’s commitments on climate and energy were the largest it had made across the board, and insisted the issue was central to the party’s plans for Government.

In a question and answer session following the speech, he said the idea people wanted to have a climate culture war was “total nonsense”.

“People want the country to do the right thing, and to do the right thing themselves,” he said, adding it needed to work for people economically.

He was quizzed by Green Alliance executive director Shaun Spiers over whether the Conservative government was doing “good by stealth” by announcing rollbacks on climate policy, but continuing to push forward with measures that would deliver on them, such as on the phasing out of petrol and diesel cars.

In response, Mr Miliband said: “The more that it’s true the better in terms of substance, it’s the right thing for the country.

“But my fear is that by indulging all of the rhetoric and argument of climate delay, you empower the wrong people, and I think the wrong people are empowered.”

And he said: “You look at the signals they’re sending both internationally and to investors by their rhetoric, and I think it’s deeply damaging.”

Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary Claire Coutinho said: “In his first public speech since Rachel Reeves tried to ditch the £28 billion price tag of their 2030 decarbonisation promise, Ed Miliband has recommitted to the pledge which Labour costed themselves at £28 billion a year.

“Labour cannot say how they will pay for it because they do not have a plan. Without a plan to pay for their energy promise it will be taxes on hardworking families that rise – taking us back to square one.

“Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives have a plan to reach net zero in a pragmatic way that protects family finances, becoming a world leader in offshore wind and delivering the first large-scale nuclear project since 1995.

“If we stick to the plan, we can deliver a brighter future for all.”