Energy Secretary Ed Miliband praises Calder Valley's 'environmental hotbed'

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Energy Secretary has paid tribute to the ‘green groundswell’ of local activity taking place in communities across Calder Valley that’s helping Britain make the transition to a low carbon economy. Speaking at a question and answer session organised by Calder Valley’s Labour Parliamentary Candidate, Steph Booth, at Brighouse Sports Club on Friday night, Ed Miliband said he was aware that many communities in Calder Valley were an “environmental hotbed” showing real leadership in the fight against climate change.


Ed Miliband and Steph Booth

In a passionate, well-attended debate the Energy Secretary spoke about the importance of the United Nations meeting in Copenhagen this December, where 180 countries are expected to thrash out a new international deal to tackle climate change, why there is a need for “a revolution” in the way we get our energy and why he thought controversial decisions to go ahead with wind turbine applications were “broadly right”.

When asked about the prospect of giant wind turbines on Todmorden Moor, he admitted that “there can be legitimate objections to wind turbines in certain areas” but stressed that he thought it was generally “right, not wrong” that they are introduced.

“We need a revolution in the way we get our energy, in the way we heat our homes and insulate them and the way we travel around,” he told an audience of 80 people. “And I know this is going to be unpopular in some quarters but we need all of the low carbon sources that we have. Plans to introduce very big wind turbines are always controversial. But I think the biggest threat to the countryside is not wind turbines, I think it is climate change.”

Warning that the threat of climate change is not a theoretical possibility, he added that for many parts of the developing world climate change is a crisis now. “A few months ago I went to Bangladesh and met some of the people who live on the sand banks there – two million people live this way – and I saw for myself how the floods and cyclones were literally destroying people’s lives,” he said. “For them and millions of other people around the world it is incredibly urgent that we get this deal at Copenhagen because they need the resources to be able to adapt to the climate change that has already happened as well as the action that will be necessary to prevent more dangerous climate change, which we know will ensue if we don’t take action now.”

Admitting that there was still a long way to go to convince people to adapt to a more low carbon lifestyle, he said he saw himself as being “in the persuasion business” and that it was important people locally realised the huge benefits of a low carbon future.

“Someone said to me a while back when I was talking about the dangers of climate change, ‘look Ed, Martin Luther King didn’t say I have a nightmare, he said I have a dream’ and there’s a very good reason for that because people follow dreams not nightmares,” he explained. “But there is a positive vision at the heart of the fight to combat climate change and that’s the huge job opportunities that this will create.

“In terms of low carbon energy resources such as clean coal, renewable and nuclear energy there are massive job opportunities in Britain that we can take advantage of.  It’s about energy security because we know the North Sea is declining in the gas it provides us but actually low carbon energy is more likely to be home grown energy and we have to make that energy security argument. It’s also about fairness and let’s be honest about this, we all see it in our own communities , the way the energy market works is not fair at the moment because often it is the poorest people in our societies who pay the most through pre-payment meters for their energy and that has got to change. To me the challenge of addressing climate change is partly about avoiding the nightmare but it’s also about fairness and making a better quality of life for people through more sustainable, fairer and secure energy policies.”

Responding after the debate Steph Booth thanked the Energy Secretary for coming to Calderdale ahead of critical talks in London this week where 17 countries with the highest rate of greenhouse gas emissions will meet to try and make progress on a climate deal.

“What Ed demonstrated without a doubt,” she said, “is that you cannot leave climate change to the market as the Conservatives seem to suggest. David Cameron argues that big Government is the problem but you cannot deal with these critical issues, which are so important for future generations, without big Government.

“Ed took a lot of questions tonight and did not duck any tough issues. We acknowledge there is a lot more to be done but our Government has a good record in this area. We are leading the world in clean coal technology, we have more offshore wind capacity than any other country in the world and in Ed Miliband we have the best person to negotiate a fair and ambitious deal in Copenhagen that could make all the difference to the lives of our children and many other generations to come.”

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