Environment

Britain needs 'state-owned energy champion', shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband says

Ed Miliband said the creation of GB Energy would be a part of Labour's Green Prosperity Pla

Ed Miliband addresses the Labour Party conference in Liverpool in 2022 .Photo by James McCauley/Shutterstock (13421352af)

Britain needs a “state-owned energy champion” to achieve its climate targets, shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband told business leaders on Tuesday, as pressure mounts on the government to clarify its environment commitments amid the climate crisis.

Speaking at an event hosted by climate charity Green Alliance on Tuesday (28 March), Ed Miliband said the Labour Party would establish a “publicly owned energy-generating company called GB Energy” as part of its Green Prosperity Plan, sure to be a flagship policy at the next general election.

“Every real leader in zero carbon power has a national champion – EDF in France, Equinor in Norway, Vattenfall in Sweden. Nine out of 10 countries leading on zero carbon power have state-owned national champions. Which is the one that doesn’t? Britain,” Miliband said, also praising Danish energy company Ørsted, which has heavily invested in renewable energy.

“The country needs change and GB Energy is a vital part of this change,” he continued.

The Green Prosperity Plan, which Miliband dubbed the British version of the President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), includes a multi-billion pound investment by government and businesses to drive green jobs and achieve net zero.

Miliband added that it is “absurd” for the UK to have no “public clean energy champion to deliver jobs” and energy security when “so many of our competitors do”.

“GB Energy will exist to capture the potential of Britain for the benefit of the British people. It will invest in the next frontier of green energy like green hydrogen, floating wind, tidal power. and also look to partner with the private section in more mature technologies,” Miliband said.

GB Energy was first announced in September by Labour leader Keir Starmer at the party’s annual conference.

Miliband pledged to offer “consistent climate leadership” under a Labour government and to “deliver the economic change that British people crave”.

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“This is not protectionism, but patriotism,” he added, referring to business secretary Kemi Badenoch’s previous comments that the IRA would restrict international trade. Biden’s opponents accused him of subsidising US industries with the IRA instead of promoting competition.

Miliband said the Green Prosperity Plan would ensure the UK remains “an open economy, welcoming foreign investment and goods” as “not everything in the green economy could or should be produced domestically in the UK”.

Miliband said there was clear “evidence” that the UK was already “behind” in the “race for green jobs” and the economic opportunity a “green industrial revolution” promises even before President Biden introduced the IRA.

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In particular, he accused the Treasury of being a “long-standing block on the kind of investment we need” and criticised the “defeatism” of the current government.

“It is the great opportunity of our time, and the Labour government is determined to deliver it,” he said.

“This is a defining moment for our country and this whole agenda. We can be sore losers in the face of the Inflation Reduction Act and watch Britain forfeit the greatest chance of prosperity for generations… or we can do something different,” Miliband said, adding that the UK should stop “moaning” about the IRA and “start matching its ambition”.

The Conservative government is expected to unveil its plans for energy security and curbing emissions later this week, in response to a deadline from the High Court to revise its net zero policies.

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson told the Big Issue: “The government’s plans will maintain the UK’s place as a world-leader in working towards net zero while boosting the economy. The UK economy has grown by 65 per cent while cutting emissions by 48 per cent between 1990 and 2021 – decarbonising faster than any other G7 country. 

The spokesperson pointed to plans by the government to “invest in renewable and nuclear technologies” which they said would support “up to 480,000 well-paid green jobs and secure as much as £100billion of private investment by 2030” while also “bolstering” the UK’s energy security and independence in light of increasingly high energy bills.

The Big Issue’s #BigFutures campaign is calling for investment in decent and affordable housing, ending the low wage economy, and millions of green jobs. The last 10 years of austerity and cuts to public services have failed to deliver better living standards for people in this country. Sign the open letter and demand a better future.

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