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Miliband takes up the mantle of delivering UK’s climate-tackling mission – again

Ed Miliband takes up the climate mantle for a Labour government once more (Jacob King/PA)
Ed Miliband takes up the climate mantle for a Labour government once more (Jacob King/PA)

As Ed Miliband finally returns to Government in essentially the role he held 14 years ago, he is tasked with delivering one of Labour’s key missions – clean energy.

Labour has put clean energy as one of its central missions for government, in a bid to end high bills “for good”, creating a clear dividing line with the Tories who had rowed back on commitments to shift the country to net zero emissions.

Mr Miliband will have to deliver on the manifesto pledges to establish a publicly owned Great British Energy company, with £8.3 billion to invest in clean energy, halt new oil and gas licences and deliver a “green prosperity plan” to create 650,000 jobs, cut bills and shift the UK to a clean economy.

In becoming Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary, the former Labour leader comes full circle to his last Cabinet role, appointed in 2008 by then prime minister Gordon Brown to be energy and climate change secretary shortly before the world-leading Climate Change Act became law.

He will be one of the few ministers around the Cabinet table with previous senior government experience.

And he has an uphill task to deliver the clean energy by 2030 pledge, as well as get other key parts of the emissions-cutting mission on track, despite Labour slashing its proposed £28 billion a year spend on climate action.

One of the first challenges he faces is the next offshore wind auction in August, when companies will bid for contracts to deliver new wind farms, with analysts and industry warning the pot is currently not big enough to deliver needed capacity.

The sector will also be looking to Labour to deliver its pledges to lift the effective ban on onshore wind and double the spend on insulated and upgrading British homes.

Industry body RenewableUK’s chief executive Dan McGrail said Labour should take steps in the coming weeks to make it clear they intend to deliver on their clean energy mission.

“Most notably, lifting the effective ban on onshore wind in England and increasing the budget for this year’s contracts for difference auction to enable new wind, solar and tidal clean energy projects to go ahead.

“By increasing the budget as one of its first key actions in office, the new government can make a crucial intervention to unlock billions of pounds of investment in renewable energy projects, lowering bills for consumers, enhancing our energy security, and boosting UK supply chains and high-quality jobs across the country,” he said.

Other key elements of the shift to a green economy will include working with the Department of Transport to deliver the pledge to restore the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, and speed up the transition to clean heating, such as heat pumps to replace gas boilers.

Mr Miliband will also be seeking to re-establish the UK’s global leadership role on climate change, which reached a peak under Boris Johnson, when Glasgow hosted the UN climate “Cop26” talks, but which declined under prime ministers Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak.

Campaigners said that the election provided the new Government with an “enormous” vote of confidence for its green policies.

Juliet Phillips, from climate think tank E3G said: “The public has just provided an enormous climate vote of confidence behind Labour’s ambitious policies, including for clean power by 2030, to end domestic production of oil and gas, and to set out an expansive warm homes plan to fix our leaky homes.

“Policy delays and derailments under the Conservatives have set the UK back, but our climate and fuel poverty targets can remain in reach with the right measures and investment behind them.”

Greenpeace UK’s co-executive director, Areeba Hamid, said: “This landslide victory has buried Sunak’s divisive anti-green agenda once and for all and is a powerful call for change.

“Voters have resoundingly rejected his climate rollbacks and elected a party with a proper plan to turbocharge cheap, clean, renewable energy, promising to slash emissions, lower bills and deliver hundreds of thousands of new green jobs.”

But she warned: “However, the Green surge and success of the Lib Dems, who stood on much bolder climate and nature pledges, shows that there is a genuine appetite from voters for much stronger green policies from the government.”