Category Archives: Energy

Après le déluge – where does Labour go now?

Noel Hamel from New Malden: “A measured and thoughtful piece that avoids the pitfalls of mudslinging. Anyone interested in left-leaning progressive politics will find this interesting”.

Summary of Alan Simpson’s paper:  Après le déluge

Parliament starts the new decade with Labour still in a state of grief…and anger…about its crushing election defeat. It’s a good place to start. The real grief is the damage done to the bigger dream that once surrounded Corbyn. Only a shift into more circular economics stands a chance.

For the Left, the problems began with Labour’s failure to root its policies in the radical decentralisation regularly espoused by both Corbyn and McDonnell, but which never made it past control obsessions within the ‘Corridoriat’ of Senior Advisors surrounding them.

Killing the dream

In 2017, thousands were drawn towards Jeremy because he symbolised a different sort of politics; something open, honest, radical and inclusive; a politics that promised to be genuinely transformative. Labour lost, but we felt like winners.

Blinded by Brexit

The 2019 election should never have happened. Johnson only had one card – Brexit – and Labour should have forced the Tories to wallow in the Brexit mess Johnson had wrapped himself in. A spring or summer election would have suited Labour much better… on condition that Johnson’s Brexit deal would first be put to a public vote.

Brexit neutrality made Labour look indecisive and Jeremy weak. It spurned Labour’s strongest card in favour of a public vote. Whatever the outcome it would have taken Brexit out of any subsequent election which would have had to address the bigger threats of societal and climate collapse already hovering around our doorsteps.

Labour lacked a simple strap-line

We didn’t even have the wit to dump the ‘Brexit’ part of the Tories’ ‘Get it done’, prefacing it with a succession of bigger issues; ‘Fix the planet: Get it done’, ‘Tackle homelessness:…’, ‘Repair the NHS:…’, ‘End poverty:…’.

The Tories set about casting Jeremy Corbyn as a man who couldn’t lead

Corbyn’s senior team helped, turning Jeremy’s campaigning zeal into an absence rather than an asset. Goodness knows how many rail-miles Jeremy clocked up, but it never became the ‘leadership’ peg the public were looking for, building a mass movement, with a hugely empowered, devolved power base.

Jeremy inherited a PLP that wanted to lynch him and (to their credit) an office determined to stop them and he ended up with a corridor cabal.

The opportunity to build a wider consensus got lost behind internal obsessions with control, creating a siege/control mentality that was never able to reach outwards. No national/international figures were ever brought in to raise Jeremy’s policy/leadership profile. No one who’d ever arm-wrestled in climate negotiations, trade deals or peace diplomacy came in to lead Labour’s transformation planning. Instead, ‘corridor control’ came to dominate. Factionalism overtook radicalism. At the most senior levels, people who’d never negotiated anything more than an extended tea-break were left in charge of the policy sifting process. The most repeated Shadow Ministerial complaint was about delays in getting radical policy proposals through the LOTO soup (LOTO: the Leader of the Opposition Office)

  • Sue Hayman saw a string of her environment proposals get lost in this Never-never-land.
  • Two years on, Alan Whitehead still awaits approval for publication of his Local Energy book (on radical decentralisation).
  • Andy MacDonald’s pledge to set annual carbon budgets for every part of the transport sector never became the platform for transformative changes in aviation and shipping policy.
  • His proposed ‘pendulum shift’ of funding from private to public transport infrastructures went the same way.

So where does Labour go next? Back to the Future? There is no ‘nice politics’ of the middle ground to return to. Business as usual will never return.

  • Look at the fires currently raging in Australia and the floods in nearby Indonesia.
  • Look at our own pre-Christmas floods
  • Look at earlier fires that wreaked havoc from California to the Arctic Circle.
  • Look at the ice melt.

Any wannabe Labour Leader who ducks the centrality of transformative climate politics is not worth following. As climate physicists continually try to warn us, ‘There are no small steps left’ but a systemic, transformative change might hold society together. The Left needs a bigger, anti-poverty, climate politics to hold communities, and the country, together.

Regionalised and localised approaches to flood prevention, food security, air quality, re-wilding, fuel poverty, clean energy and transport must form the backbone of a Labour commitment to refound accountable, secure and inclusive democracy. It needs to go hand in hand with the radical re-empowerment of local government. There is no other way of delivering the 20%+ annual CO2 reductions needed to avoid the next tranche of climate tipping points.

In early 2017, John McDonnell, Jeremy and I began work on what was to be a Labour ‘Smart Cities’ Initiative. The plan was to open up conversations with up to 20 localities about the development of radically decentralised, clean-energy grids. Modelled on lessons from both Denmark and Germany, the plan was to put localities in the driving seat of strategies that made ‘climate’ the centrepiece of tomorrow’s economics. It needed rapid decarbonisation of the energy system, nationwide energy efficiency and waste reduction programmes, the use of smart technologies to localise, store and share energy, and a new skills agenda delivering full employment in a more circular economy.

The first Merseyside venue, workshops and speakers were all agreed on. But the political penny began to drop that this posed a serious threat to existing fossil fuel interests and to centralised energy generation. Suddenly no one could find a common diary date for Jeremy and John. The 3-D commitment – decarbonisation, decentralisation and democratisation – became the first of Labour’s ‘corridor casualties’.

Climate priorities, as well as electoral calculations, dictate that this is where Labour’s repair work must begin in Scotland and Wales as much as in the newly lost heartlands of the North and Midlands. This is where tomorrow’s security, stability and democracy politics will find its roots.

The last election should have been the Climate Election. What happens in the next decade will determine whether we tip from crisis to collapse. Labour needs to become the Party that ensures we don’t.

 

Alan Simpson

Advisor on Sustainable Economics January 2020

 

 

 

 

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Key policies from Labour’s manifesto

Richard House draws attention to a useful breakdown of key policies from Labour’s election-winning manifesto

 

 

 

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Labour: setting the agenda for meaningful climate action

Richard House has drawn attention to an article by Carlos Martinez, activist, writer and musician who runs the political history blog Invent the Future.

He asks how climate change can be tackled effectively, stressing that the poorest countries should not focus on reducing their CO2 emissions, which are already extremely low – three-quarters of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lacks access to electricity, and commenting: For low-income countries, development has to be the priority, and this relies on energy. If that energy is to be green, then OECD countries should take responsibility, providing technology and financial support. “The great global injustice of climate change is that the peoples who have contributed least to the problem are the most vulnerable to its effects”.

Ann Pettifor’s book The Case for the Green New Deal succinctly explains what the Green New Deal (GND) is, where the idea came from, why it’s necessary, and how to make it happen. It was conceived a decade ago by a group of British economists and environmentalists and recently popularised by progressive US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

GND measures to decarbonise economies which will create millions of jobs include:

  • investment in renewable energy and zero-carbon public transport;
  • upgrading buildings for energy efficiency;
  • building “smart” distributed power grids to provide affordable clean electricity to all; reorganising the food system;
  • ending subsidies to the fossil fuel industry;
  • and prioritising basic needs.

But though OECD countries need to cut emissions by 80% over the next decade fiscal revenue isn’t sufficient to finance large-scale green development. Economist and an expert in monetary theory, Ann Pettifor is well placed to describe how the GND can be funded.

With a tightly regulated financial system based on publicly-controlled and accountable central banks, it’s possible to fund a Green New Deal that will eliminate waste, transfer green technology to the rest of the world and build a fairer, more equal society.

Citing China’s effective deployment of capital and exchange control measures, she argues that in order to implement this programme, public control over the monetary system must be regained, offshore capital must be brought back onshore and capital flows regulated and taxed.

The GND represents a set of economic and political reforms that, in combination, form a platform capable of uniting hundreds of millions. As such, it should be a key plank for left parties in Europe, North America and Australia.

Martinez comments: “The cost of failure will be climate breakdown: vast areas of the planet rendered uninhabitable; hundreds of coastal cities (including New York, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Mumbai and Lagos) permanently submerged; food and water scarcity; vicious climate wars; hundreds of millions of climate refugees”.

He ends: “If a Corbyn-led Labour government can implement its version of the GND (labelled the Green Industrial Revolution), this will be a huge boost for the global battle to save the planet”.

 

 

 

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Labour officially backs Green New Deal

Colin Hines, co-ordinator of the Green New Deal group, draws attention to Kate Proctor’s account of today’s vote at the Labour Party’s autumn conference in Brighton, backing a motion by the campaign group Labour for a Green New Deal to set a target to achieve net zero and guarantee green jobs, working with scientists and trade unions to work towards net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

For the record, the members of this group, who have been working together for at least ten years, are Larry Elliott, Economics Editor of the Guardian, Colin Hines, Co-Director of Finance for the Future, former head of Greenpeace International’s Economics Unit, Jeremy Leggett, founder of Solarcentury and SolarAid, Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP, Richard Murphy, Professor of Practice, City University, Director Tax Research LLP, Ann Pettifor, Director, Policy Research in Macroeconomics (PRIME), Charles Secrett, Advisor on Sustainable Development, former Director of Friends of the Earth, Andrew Simms, Co-Director, New Weather Institute; Coordinator, The Rapid Transition Alliance, Assistant Director, Scientists for Global Responsibility and Geoff Tily Senior Economist, TUC.

In 2015, Jeremy Corbyn wrote his Protecting Our Planet manifesto

In it, he said he would stand for Britain providing international leadership on climate change and the socialisation of our energy supply leading an end to the era of fossil fuels. Measures to be taken would include:

  • building a modern, green, resource-efficient economy – creating 1 million new green climate jobs,
  • ensuring everyone has access to a low-carbon, affordably heated home and
  • tackling the air pollution crisis in our big cities and committing to full independent public inquiry into levels of air pollution.

The Green New Deal proposals to retrofit zero-carbon measures on social and council housing and public buildings relate to the first two measures listed and there are many more, which would usher in a green industrial revolution creating tens of thousands of good, green jobs across the country. Lauren Townsend, a trade unionist and spokesperson for Labour for a Green New Deal, said: “It is time for our movement to come together to build a Green New Deal from the ground up in every town, village and city.”

In May, Jeremy Corbyn addressed a rally after Parliament had agreed to take action on climate change following Labour’s call.  After delegates passed the motion today, Labour officially backed the Green New Deal proposition which should be added to its next manifesto. Anti-climate change activists have said it is the most radical set of left-wing policies to be passed by party members in a generation.

 

 

 

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Labour must step beyond the politics of “me” and into the survival of “we.”

So writes Alan Simpson (left), formerly Labour MP for Nottingham South.

Edited extracts

Labour has to shift the focus to the health of the planet that is perilously at risk. More than 1,000 doctors (including 40 professors and former presidents of royal colleges) now call for widespread “non-violent civil disobedience” over Parliament’s failure to address the unfolding ecological and health emergency staring us in the face.

Everything, absolutely everything, must focus on two things. Labour has to block any prospect of a no-deal exit from the EU on October 31.

The trouble is that Labour is in almost as much of a mess as the Tories. At a time when the government is in complete disarray, Labour’s standing in the opinion polls is actually falling. Labour isn’t seen as offering the bigger, alternative vision and Brexit ambiguity looks more like weakness than leadership.

Mischief-makers are having a field day with identity politics in order to deflect attention from the structural issues that divide society, the deeper grievances; poverty, unemployment, squalor, ill-health, hopelessness, the towering evils the 1945 Labour government set out to tackle. As you set out to address them, the divides of race and religion melt to the sidelines.

We have to address the real “health disruptors” that stare us in the face:

  • London’s current heatwave doesn’t compare with temperatures in France; 1.5°C higher than their 2003 heatwave in which thousands died.
  • Catalonia is on fire.
  • Guadalajara, in Mexico, woke up to find districts buried in two metres of freak hailstones, the size of golf balls.
  • Similar “golf balls” had shattered windscreens in southern France only two weeks ago, just before the climate roller-coaster raced into overheating.
  • The last 40 years has seen an 80% fall in bee and insect populations that pollination (and biodiversity) depends on.

It is all part of the unrecognised war we conduct upon ourselves (and our children)

So, back in Britain, where is the press challenging politicians on the existential crises facing our soils, water supplies, air quality, ecosystems and biodiversity?

On all the really big issues of the day, the press (and most politicians) have gone AWOL. One reason is that there are now no answers that don’t involve systems change.

The situation cries out for an urban mining, circular economics, that reclaims compounds and elements from products and buildings, reusing and recycling materials – including IT and electronic waste – that are finite rather than infinite. Product lifetimes have to be dramatically increased (along with the repair services to underpin them).

  • There is as much copper circulating in the economy (or accumulating as scrap) as probably remains in the earth.
  • Britain imports all of the 17 rare earth elements we rely on for everything from lasers to cancer drugs, from mobile phones to surgical supplies. Virtually all are currently lost as exported waste or inefficient recycling.
  • We import 12.3 million tonnes of iron ore each year but produce 10m tonnes of scrap iron and steel, the bulk of which gets dumped abroad.
  • The weight of clothing we discard is equivalent to the weight of clothing we import. And Britain discards the same weight of electronic equipment each year as the equipment we buy.

The Tory leadership race is dominated by prejudice and pandering to the rich and powerful. It will chase neoliberal delusions, no matter what social divisions or ecological disasters come in their wake. Labour must step beyond the politics of “me” and into the survival of “we.”

Simpson ends, “In doing so, I don’t care if my culture, my race, my sexuality, nationality or religion comes a poor second. The changes Labour must deliver, within the coming decade, will determine whether our children and grandchildren have the chance to sort these things out for themselves”.

Alan Simpson now advises the party on environmental issues. His article may be read in full here:

 

 

 

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A Europe-wide “project hope” agenda – a central role for Jeremy Corbyn

Colin Hines is one of several readers who responded to a report in the Guardian. He wrote:

Your chilling, but hardly surprising, front-page revelation that one in four Europeans vote populist was long on excellent analysis, but lacked any solutions. Reversing this trend and its fallout, including Brexit, will require tackling the reasons for its rise:

  • widespread concerns about inadequately controlled migration
  • and the economic insecurity now rife among both the employed and unemployed.

Tackling the latter will require spelling out a “project hope” agenda which reverses austerity and instead invests in the rebuilding of Europe’s social infrastructure, while also funding a massive green infrastructure programme for transforming the energy, energy-saving and transport systems continent-wide.

Europeans should take inspiration from the US, where progressive new congresswomen and men are now pushing the Democrats into adopting just such aGreen New Deal”.

They realise that a “jobs in every part of the country” programme is central to defeating Trump.

Here, Jeremy Corbyn could play a central role by capitalising on the present parliamentary chaos and asserting that Labour supports a people’s vote, but with the “remain and reform” agenda for Europe, similar to that he “campaigned” for in the run up to the referendum.

Putting rebuilding local economies at the heart of such reform would gain support from leave-voting areas and could be a rallying call for those fighting rightwing populism across Europe. It could also have the domestic payoff of forming the core of Labour’s next and hopefully successful election manifesto, whenever required.

 

 

 

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Policies presented at a WM Labour Party Regional Office meeting

Message received on Mon, 12 November: David Bailey presented Economics for the Many (link to slides) at an interesting event at the WM Labour Party regional office. Over a hundred people came and there was a great discussion.

David Bailey

Professor of Industrial Strategy

Aston Business School
The Aston Triangle, Birmingham, B4 7ET, UK.
email: d.bailey@aston.ac.uk
tel: +44 (0)7981 925713 or +44 (0)121 204 5262
twitter: @dgbailey

David’s Blog: http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/authors/david-bailey/

Our projects:

http://www.makers-rise.org
http://www.foreurope.eu

 

 

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Jeremy Corbyn at Labour’s conference in Wales

Shadow Welsh secretary Christina Rees, Carwyn Jones and Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn spoke at Labour’s conference in Llandudno on 22nd April and received a huge standing ovation, in spite of the relentless media efforts to portray him negatively while often ignoring or even covering up the disarray on the government’s front benches.

A transcript is not available but his 2017 speech is well worth revisiting: http://jeremycorbyn.org.uk/articles/jeremy-corbyns-speech-to-the-welsh-labour-conference/

Highlights:

What Labour in Wales has achieved:

A health service free from unnecessary top-down reorganisations and privatisation where your hospitals are not struggling with record deficits due to the legacy of PFI. The NHS in Wales is treating more people than ever before and 90% say they received good treatment

  • Free prescriptions for all
  • A new treatment fund setup for life threatening illnesses
  • On cancer waiting times, Wales is doing better than England and cancer survival rates in Wales are improving faster than anywhere in Britain
  • You’ve protected the social care budget which has been slashed in England
  • and there are good industrial relations in Wales: no strikes provoked and no operations cancelled unnecessarily

We strongly support the doctors who don’t want patient safety to be put at risk.  Last week I had the privilege of spending a couple of hours with a group of junior doctors. Let’s be clear, they are not “junior” they are dedicated, highly qualified people on whom we all depend. They are alarmed at the direction the NHS is taking.

As a parting gift they gave me this book “How to dismantle the NHS in 10 easy steps” which starts with an internal market and ends with an aim of introducing universal private health insurance.

As Nye Bevan said: “Illness is a misfortune, the cost of which should be shared by the community”.

In Wales you have built an education system that has just delivered the best ever GCSE results

  • new schools are being built
  • primary school pupils get a free breakfast
  • the poorest college students still get the education maintenance allowance (EMA)
  • And where Welsh students aren’t shackled by mountainous debt and where grants are being maintained.

English students leave university with an average £22,000 more in debt than Welsh students; that is a shocking burden that shackles young people as they start in life. It is no surprise that home ownership has collapsed.

Jobs Growth Wales has helped 15,000 young people into work

  • The Young Entrepreneurs Bursary has helped young people to setup over 400 businesses in Wales and your plans to deliver 100,000 quality apprenticeships.
  • the Bay Campus at Swansea is already reaping the benefits of high tech jobs in the area.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that tax and benefit changes in the last five years have left the average Welsh household £560 a year worse off.

Tax cuts for the few, the super-rich and big business public service cuts and welfare cuts for the many. We have gratuitous inequality in this country the average pay of the top chief executives compared with the average worker has risen from 47 times in 1998 to 183 times last year.

For too many people in the UK who aren’t the super-rich elite and there are quite a few of them, life is wracked by insecurity, at work and at home, Labour believes that we only succeed if we all succeed together.

The impact of this insecurity on people’s lives can be huge, it affects people’s physical and mental health.

The Tories have failed to invest in modernising the economy, we are way behind other countries on our digital infrastructure, our transport, our energy system and our housing.

70 Labour councils have committed to eliminate all carbon emissions by 2050 – including major cities like Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle, and Liverpool and here in Wales in Swansea, Torfaen and Caerphilly. And Labour in Wales has set out a clear energy policy, Energy Wales: A Low Carbon Transition and is supporting decentralised energy production through the Local Energy Service.

The Conservative government continues to fail to invest in renewable energy cut subsidies for the nascent solar industry but increased them for fracking and for diesel generators.

If our investment in flood defences had been continued, retaining the senior staff employed to make decisions in these emergencies and protecting the emergency services who responded to save lives and homes during those difficult days and weeks, we would not have seen the level of destruction and flood damage that caused such anguish to so many people as their homes were damaged and their belongings ruined.

Transport infrastructure is absolutely crucial to industrial development and growth. I praise the Welsh government in its support in re-opening and improving valley railway lines, the plans for the improved metro links in the south west of Wales and the crucial need to improve the North Wales line and road links.

We have already challenged the government and won on many important issues:

  1. We forced them to take a U-turn on cuts to working tax credits meaning 3 million families will no longer be hit this April with a £1,000 cut to their family income
  2. We made them backtrack on plans to further cut police numbers in their Autumn statement
  3. And we stood against the horrendous proposal that the UK would run Saudi Arabia’s prison system for them

Our party is one of social justice every child deserves a good education every student the option to study at college or university everyone deserves a decent and secure home to live in nobody should ever be left destitute the grotesque levels of inequality are unjustifiable and must go.

We are living through an era of the most grotesque deepening inequality in Britain and the West. The cynics say that inevitably the next generation will be worse of that this, I say this is not inevitable and not necessary as socialist our duty is to expand the wealth but crucially to share it so the next generation is better off than this one, and our grandchildren will be better off than our children.

 

 

 

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Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the Alternative Models of Ownership Conference (10.02.18)

 http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/Q369GPank3G/Labour+Leaders+Host+Conference+Alternative/Jeremy+Corbyn

It is a pleasure to close today’s conference, which has shown once again that it is our Party that is coming up with big ideas.

And we’re not talking about ideas and policies dreamed up by corporate lobbyists and think tanks or the wonks of Westminster, but plans and policies rooted in the experience and understanding of our members and our movement; drawing on the ingenuity of each individual working together as part of a collective endeavour with a common goal.

Each of you here today is helping to develop the ideas and the policies that will define not just the next Labour Government but a whole new political era of real change.  An era that will be as John said earlier radically fairer, more equal and more democratic.

The questions of ownership and control that we’ve been discussing today go right to the heart of what is needed to create that different kind of society.

Because it cannot be right, economically effective, or socially just that profits extracted from vital public services are used to line the pockets of shareholders when they could and should be reinvested in those services or used to reduce consumer bills.

We know that those services will be better run when they are directly accountable to the public in the hands of the workforce responsible for their front line delivery and of the people who use and rely on them.  It is those people not share price speculators who are the real experts.

That’s why, at last year’s general election, under the stewardship of Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, Transport Secretary Andy McDonald and Environment Secretary Sue Hayman, Labour pledged to bring energy, rail, water, and mail into public ownership and to put democratic management at the heart of how those industries are run.

This is not a return to the 20th century model of nationalisation but a catapult into 21st century public ownership.

The failure of privatisation and outsourcing of public services could not be clearer.

From Carillion’s collapse and the private sector’s chronic inability to run the East Coast Mainline to the exorbitant costs of PFI and the hopeless inability of G4S even to handle basic security at the London Olympics the same story is repeated again and again; costly, inefficient, secretive.

Unaccountable corporate featherbedding, lubricated by revolving door appointments between Whitehall, Westminster and private boardrooms as service standards and the pay and conditions of public service workers are driven down. This obsessive drive to outsource and privatise has been tried and tested to destruction.

Carillion’s meltdown is a watershed moment. We need to take a new direction with a genuinely mixed economy fit for the 21stcentury that meets the demands of cutting edge technological change. Public services that reflect today’s society and the industries of the future.

We need to put Britain at the forefront of the wave of international change in favour of public, democratic ownership and control of our services and utilities.

From India to Canada, countries across the world are waking up to the fact that privatisation has failed and are taking back control of their public services.

Research by the Transnational Institute identifies 835 international examples of privatisation being reversed. It really is happening: from water under citizen ownership and control in Grenoble, France to mail under national ownership and control in Argentina.

There are very good reasons for what’s taking place. The neoliberal ideology that drove the privatisation frenzy forgot a key lesson that’s understood even by conventional neoclassical economics; that where there are natural monopolies, markets fail.

The architect of Thatcherite privatisation, Professor Stephen Littlechild thought regulators could mimic market competition but he was wrong. The regulators have proved too weak to close to the companies they’re supposed to be regulating and too prone to corporate capture which is why we’ve seen productivity increases of just 1% a year since our water industry was privatised despite all the new technology that the water industry has at its disposal.

Without genuine competition or public accountability private ownership of key utilities has meant customers at the mercy of rip-off price fixing. Water bills have increased 40% in real terms since privatisation but we don’t have anywhere else to go for our water when prices go up.

It’s this ridiculous and highly profitable situation that the water companies are so desperate to protect. The case for public ownership is so clear and so popular and we’ve demonstrated how it’s an investment with no net cost for the taxpayer. The water companies are so frightened that some have commissioned a so-called independent report to make the public believe nothing can change.

But as we know, things can and will change.

And they must when we’ve all seen how the big energy companies jack up prices too knowing full well most people don’t switch suppliers. And the energy grids are even worse, overcharging customers by £7.5bn over the last 8 years, according to Citizens Advice.

Climate change

But Labour’s plans are responding to an even bigger market failure than natural monopolies. We need to take back control of our energy system because, as Nicholas Stern described, “the greatest market failure the world has seen” is climate change.

Now, it pains me to have to contradict the US President, especially using data from a US government agency but according to NASA, the world’s average temperature in 2017 was 0.9 degrees Celsius above the 1951 to 1980 average.

We are long past debating whether global warming is happening, or if it is man-made. It is. And it is not just a threat to our future on this planet it is fuelling wars, natural disasters and the refugee crisis right now.

To avoid a future of extreme heatwaves, shortages of fresh water, falling crop yields, increased flooding, dangerous rises in sea levels, and the mass loss of biodiversity in both land and sea we need, as a bare minimum, to meet our Paris obligations and seek to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

The challenge of climate change requires us to radically shift the way we organise our economy.

In 1945, elected to govern a country ravaged by six years of war, Clem Attlee’s Labour Government knew that the only way to rebuild our economy was through a decisive turn to collective action. Necessary action to help avert climate catastrophe requires us to be at least as radical.

Tackling global warming won’t be achieved by warm words. Nobody is fooled by Michael Gove’s reinvention of himself as an eco-warrior. Behind the rhetoric lies a trail of environmental destruction.

This is a Government that has licensed fracking, declared a moratorium on renewable levies, while massively subsidising fossil fuels dithered over tidal, held back onshore wind, U-turned on making all new homes zero carbon and is failing to take the necessary measures to meet our legal commitments to reduce CO2 emissions.

At last year’s election by contrast, Labour pledged to ban fracking, insulate four million homes, invest in rail and bus networks to reduce traffic on our roads, invest in tidal and wind, and deliver 60% of our energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Public ownership of our energy system

A green energy system will look radically different to the one we have today. The past is a centralised system with a few large plants. The future is decentralised, flexible and diverse with new sources of energy large and small, from tidal to solar.

Smart technologies will optimise usage so that instead of keeping gas plants running just in case there is a lull in renewable generation the system fulfils needs by identifying the greenest, most local energy source. There will be much more use of local, micro grids and of batteries to store and balance fluctuating renewable energy.

We will still need a grid to match energy supply with demand and import and export renewable energy abroad because the wind won’t always blow where energy is needed. But it will be a smart grid, radically transformed.

Transforming the grid will require investment and planning on a scale that is simply not happening under the current system.

Price cap regulation encourages private grid operators to cut costs and pay money out in dividends, not to plan how the grid will need to work in 25 years’ time, or to make the necessary long-term investments we need to get there.

Grid operators are notorious for overcharging and causing delays in connecting renewables because they have no incentive to make it easy for clean, community generators to connect to the grid, or to encourage community grid initiatives that might end up undermining their profits.

The greenest energy is usually the most local but people have been queuing up for years to connect renewable energy to the national grid. With the national grid in public hands we can put tackling climate change at the heart of our energy system, committing to renewable generation from tidal to onshore wind. Investing to connect renewable energy to the grid, giving impetus to the kind of research and innovation that will make our grids smarter, more flexible, and capable of genuine optimisation.

And actively devolving power to local communities, by giving community energy practical support and encouragement. Energy transition will depend on the initiative and ingenuity of the many to localise the production and consumption of energy.

We need public ownership and democratic control to make that happen and use the skills and knowledge of the workforce and communities across the country.

There are some who hanker after a Thatcherite so-called “prosumer” model where people produce and consume their own energy and whole communities opt out of the grid. But not everyone has the resources – natural or financial – to go it alone. Energy independence for some will mean rising bills and unreliable energy for the rest.

We need a publicly-owned grid to act as the great leveller, distributing energy from where it is plentiful to where it is scarce and guaranteeing that everyone has access to clean, affordable energy  all of the time. Anything else is not only unjust, it risks doing immeasurable harm to the climate cause.

Because we will only win support for the changes that are needed if we make sure that everyone shares in the benefits. And there are many benefits, not just in cheaper energy, an end to fuel poverty, cleaner air, and a sustainable planet, but also in the creation of new good jobs and industries in renewable energy and green tech across the country.

In short, to go green, we must take control of our energy.

Just Transition

This is why it is so important that these changes are planned democratically. Many people and communities in Britain are economically reliant on fossil fuels. Our energy system needs to change but it cannot be workers and local communities who pay the price.The devastation wreaked when our coal mines were closed, leaving a legacy of decline that former mining communities are still living with, is a brutal reminder of what can happen when those communities are silenced and disregarded in the process of change.

Never again.

In public hands, under democratic control, workforces and their unions will be the managers of this change, not its casualties. The growth of green energy and green tech offers huge opportunities for job creation. Our publicly owned energy system will ensure a smooth transition and protect workers and communities, seizing those opportunities for the many, not the few.

So let me make this commitment here today. Just as the US GI Bill gave education, housing and income support to every unemployed veteran returning from the Second World War, the next Labour Government will guarantee that all energy workers are offered retraining, a new job on equivalent terms and conditions, covered by collective agreements and fully supported in their housing and income needs through transition.

We will make good the words of the Canadian campaigner Naomi Klein, when she said: “The real solutions to the climate crisis are also our best hope of building a much more enlightened economic system, one that closes deep inequalities, strengthens and transforms the public sphere, generates plentiful, dignified work and radically reins in corporate power.”

Conclusion 

Comrades and friends, a blinkered faith in untrammelled markets and a doctrinal rejection of the power of collective action are the twin dogmas that have blighted political thinking in this country for nearly 40 years, have been brutally exposed for the destructive blind alley they are.

Who can maintain that handing the private sector control of our public services delivers economic or social efficiency and best value after the havoc wreaked by the collapse of Carillion, or the £2 billion public bailout of the East Coast Mainline rail franchise?

An overriding obsession with what is claimed to be “efficiency” but which almost always turns out to mean simply “the cheapest” has fixated on cutting costs for the private providers while loading them on to the public purse and suffocated the public service ethos in the process.

By taking our public services back into public hands, we will not only put a stop to rip-off monopoly pricing, we will put our shared values and collective goals at the heart of how those public services are run. Whether that’s:

  • an energy system that doesn’t jeopardise the future of our planet,
  • a joined up transport system that helps us, rather than hinders us,
  • moving away from reliance on fossil fuels,
  • a postal service that delivers for everyone across the UK and which invests for technological change rather than managing decline,
  • a water system which puts an end to wasteful leakage and environmental degradation,
  • a society which puts its most valuable resources, the creations of our collective endeavour, in the hands of everyone who is part of that society,
  • extending the principle of universalism, right across our basic services.
  • eree at the point of use to all who use them:

 

That’s real, everyday, practical socialism. And we’re going to build it together.

 

 

o