Ed Miliband talks on Climate Change in Swindon

The Climate Action Campaign came to Swindon on Friday (30th April). Ed Miliband (Sec of State for Energy and Climate Change) and Franny Armstrong (Maker of the film “Age of Stupid” and founder of the 10:10 movement) hosted an interactive conversation on climate change.  In 2008 Labour produced and passed the 2008 Climate Change Act which requires a reduction of 34% carbon emissions by 2020 and 80% by 2050. The Labour Government are widely recognised as world leaders in tackling climate issues.

Yet the absence of any discussion on this issue in the media during the election is surprising given that main parties profess to see ‘Climate Change’ as a central issue that affects us now and in the immediate future. While the personality-driven media has been concentrating on the Party’s leadership for instant headlines, the immediate and long term needs of our planet have been largely ignored.  The message I took from the meeting was that the  prevention of climate catastrophe is not a sensational enough topic for the shallow UK media.

Ed highlighted the need for a global accord and solution. The international backdrop emerged during the conversation along with local solutions.  Many who attended the meeting felt that ‘Climate Change’ deserves the same urgent attention as the economic crisis.  Labour has put forward a policy to address the economy and climate change at the same time through investing in green technology and this will provide new jobs and aid economic recovery.  The 10:10 campaign (ironically for the Tories a ‘target-driven’ change) provides a step-by-step process to seriously reduce energy waste and tackle climate change by 10% year on year. Ed identified that we are in a transition period and this is causing a huge political dilemma.  Labour has placed at the core of its policies a sustainable future based on Green Industry.  Not only will this require a culture change at Whitehall it will also challenge the whole country.

Ed was challenged on Aircraft Emissions and the need for an extra runway at Heathrow. Ed’s response was that flying is responsible for 2% of the world’s emissions. He indicated that the type of fuel used needs to change – and airlines are working on alternatives. He also stated Heathrow is the busiest Airport in the world and this was part of the justification for an additional runway.  The huge number of plane movements on the two existing runways increases CO2 emissions.  Part of Labour’s strategy is to support investment in high-speed-rail links, including the Cross-Rail project in London.

Labour placed emphasis on the role of local authorities in stimulating change;  particularly working with energy companies to produce energy locally.  Labour has changed legislation to enable this to happen, and has reduced restrictions on local energy generation and stimulated local competition and local solutions.

No single future source of energy generation was suggested – with a combination solutions needed.  The audience pointed out that local opposition to wind turbines, often from Tory Councils, could scupper the use of alternative-energies.  Ed emphasised the current incentives offered to producers of alternative energies, and the support given to energy conservation and zer0-energy housing regulations being introduced in 2016.   He favoured low-emission transport solutions such as inner-city Park-and-Rides, and suburban rail and tram networks.  This matches the Swindon Labour Groups plans for a urban-transit system connecting key areas and attractions.

Ed concluded by emphasising that a Labour government would work with a wide range of local and national strategic partners to bring about its radical policies for energy and emission reductions.  See Ed’s Pledge blog for a video shot on the way to Swindon.

Bob Wright, Cllr Central Ward