Liz Hutchins is Friends of the Earth’s political co-ordinator
George Osborne’s anti-green agenda is leaving him increasingly isolated, with even CBI boss John Cridland raising big concerns – so why isn’t Ed Balls doing more to tackle the chancellor?
The green economy is one of the UK’s few success stories, growing at more than four per cent each year, while the overall economy has stalled. According to the CBI, green business activity employs around 940,000 people in the UK, and with the right Government support it could provide work for many more.
The forthcoming Energy Bill is the next major battleground. The government’s official adviser, the Committee on Climate Change, says that in order to meet legally-binding UK climate targets, the power sector must be largely decarbonised by 2030.
However, George Osborne has a different view and wants a new generation of gas-fired power stations that would keep the nation hooked on expensive fossil fuels for decades.
This would also prove costly for cash-strapped households and businesses. In recent years our fuel bills have rocketed, mainly because of the soaring cost of gas. With energy experts predicting gas prices will continue to rise, maintaining our reliance on it is a reckless act of folly.
As Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in the last government, Ed Miliband was widely respected, and successfully piloted the UK’s ground-breaking Climate Change Act through the final stages of Parliament. And last week he made an important intervention by backing the need for a decarbonised power sector by 2030.
But Ed Balls has been largely silent.
The next few months are critical, which is why Friends of the Earth has written to the shadow chancellor urging him to do more to challenge the anti-green chancellor by:
• Standing up for green business against Osborne’s damaging rhetoric and interference
With green goods and services now responsible for more than eight per cent of GDP and growing fast, a large chunk of UK economic recovery depends on a stable and supportive policy environment for low-carbon business;
• Fighting for green jobs
Hundreds of thousands of extra people could be employed in the renewable energy industry alone by 2020, given the right government support. The TUC says decarbonising the economy is essential for promoting high quality employment;
• Backing clean British energy, not the chancellor’s new ‘dash for gas’
Ed Balls must support secure, clean and limitless energy from the wind, waves and sun, and champion Labour’s call for a 2030 decarbonisation target for power generation;
• Slamming Osborne’s plans to allow the desecration of the countryside and take planning decisions away from local councils; and
• Backing calls to protect millions of our most vulnerable households, suffering ill-health and high energy bills in cold, badly insulated homes.
Almost 8,000 people die every year due to cold homes – but the government has halved spending on energy efficiency for the five million households in fuel poverty. Balls must support funding for a major programme of energy efficiency for the poorest homes – saving lives and creating jobs.
Ed Balls must step up to the plate and help make Labour the greenest opposition ever – starting with the party conference this week.