Ed Miliband: 'Climate change isn't an abstract threat, we face the dangers right now'

Ed Miliband has said how the flooding experienced by his constituents in Yorkshire shows how the climate emergency is not an “abstract threat” for future generations but a dangerous reality impacting lives right now.

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 2:12 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th March 2021, 3:42 pm

Giving a speech yesterday setting out Labour’s green credentials ahead of May’s local elections, Doncaster North MP and Shadow Business Secretary Mr Miliband said climate change was “not some future crisis, it is here now, and it will get worse if we do not act”.

Pitching Labour as the party able to deliver on climate promises, Mr Miliband said it was “those who can least afford it who will be hit the hardest”.

And he stressed the need for a fair transition to green energy, a demand of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission which launched last week.

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Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband. Photo: PA

He said: “In my constituency in Doncaster in 2019, we saw floods which leds to thousands of families being evacuated and hundreds of homes being food, often for the second time in barely a decade.An event which was characterised as a one in 100 year happening, occurring twice in 12 years.”

And he added there was a need to “tackle the climate threat in a way that addresses inequalities and creates a fairer country”.

He said: “This green transformation could make us a fairer country; creating good, secure, jobs wherever people live; cleaning up the air we breathe and tackling air pollution; protecting nature and giving people access to the green spaces we have all valued so much during lockdown; ensuring everyone has a warm home with affordable energy bills, and helping to tackle the deep inequalities we face between our regions.”

He added: “As an MP in Doncaster, I know the dangers of an unplanned transition. We saw it in the closure of the pits by the Tories in the 1980s.

“It still scars our country today, we cannot have the Government repeat that mistake again. We cannot let working people pay the price of the Government’s failure to put fairness at the heart of the fight against climate change.”

And when asked by The Yorkshire Post how workers could be prepared for a move away from traditional industries to new green ones, he said skills were vital.

“There are massive opportunities in our region,” he said. “If you think about carbon capture and storage, which I’ve been working on ever since I became a Member of Parliament, there’s huge opportunities. Offshore wind, we have massive opportunities.

“We still have to do a lot more when it comes to production in offshore wind, hydrogen, the example and opportunities are abound.”

But he said “the skills agenda and skilling up the workforce is absolutely essential”, and added “what I’m saying today is that we need boldness end to end here”.

Mr Miliband also used the speech to call for interest-free loans to be offered for new and used electric vehicles to those on low to middle incomes to remove the upfront cost barrier.

Mr Miliband also pressed for a quicker rollout of charging points on streets, targeting areas such as Yorkshire, the North West and the West Midlands.

He said: “We need to make electric vehicle ownership affordable for people with lower incomes not just the better off.

“While the lifetime cost of an electric car will soon be less than the lifetime cost of a petrol and diesel car, that doesn’t solve the upfront cost problem.

“By providing a long-term interest free loan, we enable people to better afford the upfront cost and then, as they recoup the savings from the lower running costs of the electric vehicles, pay it back.

“They win by being able to go electric, we all win by cutting air pollution and accelerating the green transition and stimulating the market.

“We propose these loans are available for secondhand electric cars, too.”

But he admitted he did not own an electric car himself.

The former party leader said: “I haven’t [bought one] yet, it is a work in progress.

“We were actually on our way to buying one before lockdown – it is going to happen, I promise you.

“I have bought an electric bike but it [the electric car] is on its way.”

The Government said it was investing up to £2.8bn in driving the switch to electric vehicles and working with industry to support the installation of thousands of charge points.

A spokesman said: “Last year, SMMT [Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders] stats show more than one in 10 cars sold in the UK had a plug, showing that the electric vehicle revolution is already happening up and down the country.”