In a shock move today, New Labour promised not only to make a commitment to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions a central plank of their election campaign but also to withdraw subsidies and tax breaks from fossil fuel corporations and transfer them instead to developing renewables.
“It’s a no-brainer,” said energy and climate change minister Ed Miliband. “The planet is under threat – people are facing actual death as a result of climate change, human society will not be able to survive the disruption and misery – what else can we do but act, and act now.”
Miliband promised to make Britain an example for the world, including working for a new climate change agreement that focused on justice not only between countries, but within them as well. He admitted that the “energy” part of his brief had for too long relied on the fossil fuel, nuclear and power marketing corporations to deliver the reliable and sustainable supply people need.
“It hasn’t worked, though, has it? They have taken the profits and failed even to build enough storage for gas to get us through a cold winter. They don’t care if the price goes up – they just pass it on to the consumer. The time has come to take things into our own hands.”
As well as promising to take the energy generation and supply industry back into public ownership in short order, Miliband announced support for a new generation of local energy initiatives including:
* Combined heat and power plants (CHP) to provide electricity, heating and cooling. This will enable waste heat from one building to be used in another that needs it, rather than going to waste.
* Anaerobic digesters transforming the community’s waste, to create bio-gas to fuel the CHPs.
* Combining decentralised CHP with solar thermal panels for providing hot water and photovoltaic arrays, plus using the storage capacity of the ground itself to make the whole community a clean, de-carbonised power station.
* Rural and coastal communities forming community owned not-for-profit energy generating co-operatives to benefit directly from the harnessing of wind, wave or tidal power from within their communities for exporting to urban communities.
* Formation of not-for-profit co-operatives of architects, construction workers, suppliers and product makers, creating all new buildings with energy efficiency as the main driver, not pushed to the margins.
* A crash programme of insulating all existing homes, and firms to achieve agreed standards of insulation and energy efficiency for offices and factories. The firms would participate fully in the energy strategy for their district.
Commenting on the proposals Conservative shadow environment secretary Peter Ainsworth said: “Nationalisation? That’s a bit old hat isn’t it? We’re going to put the energy corporations into the hands of the workers, and establish energy trusts where consumers and suppliers can work together to create a sustainable energy future.”
As he spoke, Miliband was seen to be holding a small, buff-coloured book. When asked what he was reading, he told reporters: “The most revolutionary concept of a sustainable future I’ve ever read. Trust me, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
A World to Win
April 1, 2010