Ed Miliband last night promised that a Labor government would provide long-term certainty to businesses through the delivery of an ambitious new climate policy framework, as he hailed the net zero transition as “not just the ethical choice; it is the economic choice as well “.
Speaking at the BusinessGreen Leaders Awards in London yesterday, the Shadow Secretary for Climate Change and Net Zero said the climate crisis and geopolitical disruptions unleashed by Russia’s war in Ukraine underscored the need to go “further and faster” in decarbonising energy systems and the wider economy .
“We face a pivotal moment – although every moment is a pivotal moment in this determining decade and in the years after that,” Miliband said. “Now, of course, fossil fuels are not the answer. And in a country like ours, where you see the price of renewables are something like a quarter of that of fossil fuels – a quarter of the price of gas – shrinking back from the green transition is not the answer, and we need to assert that.”
Miliband cited a report last year by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which highlighted the economic benefits of accelerating decarbonisation efforts, compared to delaying action to tackle the climate crisis and contending with the worsening impactsof a warming planet.
“[The OBR report] That says that delaying by a decade doubles the cost of the transition as we lock in high carbon choices,” Miliband said. “And this is incredibly important: We have got ethics on our side, but we’ve also economics.”
But while hailing the “truly inspiring” efforts of green businesses in “leading the crusade around the climate crisis”, he said that in order to build a greener more prosperous economy, the private sector needed long-term planning and certainty around policy “for a decade or more ahead”.
He also described the UK’s net zero goals as a “delivery challenge”, and called for the public and private sectors to work together in partnership to de-risk green investments.
“It will be a delivery challenge, because something that government so often gets wrong is underestimating the importance of delivery,” said Miliband. “It’s all very well dreaming up the policy in Whitehall, but is it going to work and is it going to be delivered?”
In addition to the economic benefits associated with climate action, Miliband sought to highlight the important social benefits that come with decarbonising the economy, such as cleaner air and better insulated homes.
As such, while households and businesses are facing surging living costs, he argued that tackling climate change and delivering on the UK’s net zero goals presented an opportunity to both improve people’s everyday lives and tackle the climate crisis.
“I sometimes look at it this way: there are some people who are worried about what you might call, slightly flippantly, the end of the world, and there are other people worried about getting to the end of the week,” he said. “Our agenda is about both tackling the challenges for those worried about the end of the world and the end of the week, as you can do both things together.”
As such, the former labor leader emphasized the importance of spreading the messages associated with climate action, rather than dwelling solely on the huge threats posed by global warming.
“It’s easy for us to talk about the disaster we need to avoid – and we should – but I often said when I was Climate Change Secretary that Martin Luther King didn’t say ‘I have a nightmare’ – he said ‘I have a dream’,” Miliband explained. “And we’re in the better lives business.”
Miliband’s keynote speech kicked off the BusinessGreen Leaders Awards 2022, which saw the successes of scores of inspirational sustainability leaders and businesses recognised for their efforts over the past year across 25 categories.
Miliband, who described the event as the “green Oscars”, was also on hand to present this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award to his friend and former colleague Pete Betts, a veteran of UN climate talks where he led teams representing both the UK and EU.
He said it was an “incredible honor” to present the award to Betts, with whom he worked at the 2009 Copenhagen Summit.
“He is incredibly well regarded because of his knowledge, but also for his passion for the cause,” Miliband said of Betts. “The way I put it is this is: Pete wasn’t a civil servant who happened to care about climate – he was someone who cared passionately about climate who happened to be a civil servant… I’m truly honored to be presenting this award.”
Since leaving the civil service Betts has taken up a number key advisory and fellowship roles at the likes of the Climate Change Committee, the UK government’s COP26 team, Chatham House, and the LSE.
The former civil servant, who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumour, accepted the award with characteristic warmth and humour, and pledged to continue his climate advocacy for as long as possible.
“Why are they giving me an award for something I love?” Petts asked. “It’s a fantastic thing to work on. It’s a license to meddle in everything. It feels fraudulent to be given an award to do something that you feel so strongly about.”
“I want to make the very best of the time I’ve got left,” he added. “As some of you know I’m writing a book about climate, and I may be bothering some of you to ask for your advice and your input. So you haven’t heard the last of me yet, God willing.”