Blimey – Ed Miliband certainly likes to make it hard for himself.
Amid all the coverage this morning of his Labour conference speech yesterday, one small detail seems to have been overlooked: his commitment to total decarbonisation of the energy sector by 2030.
Labour had already committed to including a decarbonisation target in its 2015 manifesto, back in June this year after a cross-party amendment to the Energy Bill in favour of such a measure was defeated by the government – but hadn’t specified the level of the target. This is what Ed Miliband provided yesterday, when he said that
Labour will have a world leading commitment in government to take all of the carbon out of our energy by 2030.
This is a hugely ambitious commitment, and green campaigners will be purring. But you have to wonder – how exactly will this be squared this with the other new policy commitment on energy that he announced yesterday: “the next Labour government will freeze gas and electricity prices until the start of 2017”? Because if we really want to achieve a 100% decarbonisation target in just a decade and a half, it will cost more.
It may be that Labour’s simply ignoring the economics of this because the politics are so good. Jonathan Freedland observes this morning that focus group approval of price controls on gas and electricity is “off the charts”, according to a senior Labour figure. The FT’s political team, meanwhile, notes that however much the Conservatives, Lib Dems, and energy companies howl about the risk of lights going out,
Mr Miliband will relish the backlash, which he hopes will highlight his claim to be willing to side with ordinary families against big business and to tilt the economic playing field back in their favour.
“The companies won’t like it because it will cost them money,” Mr Miliband said. “But they have been overcharging people for too long because the market doesn’t work. We need to press the reset button.”
I assume that Labour knows what it’s doing here, not only because Ed Miliband knows the DECC brief back to front but also because Bryony Worthington is a shadow DECC minister and knows more about the energy sector than most of the energy companies themselves do. But I’d feel better seeing some detailed unpacking of the underlying assumptions…
1. You can totally understand why the British public is where it’s at. Last time they heard about WMD from the JIC, it was the 45 minutes claim. They’ve also drawn pretty much the correct conclusions about the net effect of our interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
2. But it strikes me as crazy for Parliament to have ruled out all military action without having either all the facts or all the options in front of it.
3. For once I agree with Dan Hodges – Ed Miliband comes out of this looking terrible.
4. I also agree that this is a tipping point for British foreign policy. Maybe Suez / Iraq order of magnitude. Coupled with where the Tories are taking us on Europe, our approach seems be not to have alliances with anyone anymore.
5. That said, foreign policy people always obsess about influence for its own sake (being ‘in with the cool kids’), rather than on what we’re trying to achieve with it. Show me a concrete win we’ve secured on an issue that matters (climate, development, human security) that we’ve secured by being in the EU or having a ‘special relationship’ with the US.
6. I take the point that way more people have been killed with conventional weapons in this war than chemical weapons. But chemical weapons are different. Same way that landmines are too. Rory Stewart’s post on his blog this morning was good on this.
7. I can totally understand why many internationalist friends of mine are in a state of despair. I feel it too. We really are watching the last gasp of the idea of the Responsibility to Protect for the foreseeable future.
8. (For which we have Tony Blair to thank. Yeah – that guy who wants to bring democracy to the Middle East while applauding the coup in Egypt as a positive development.)
9. But what’s our theory of influence here? “Something must be done” as a response to humanitarian crises has rarely led to good outcomes – from Somalia in 91 onwards. No-one’s willing to consider boots on the ground (and it’s totally unclear that it would be helpful to peace anyway). I can’t see that missile strikes will achieve much beyond making us feel better, and they’re by no means risk-free either. I’m sceptical of all the people on Twitter saying we have to find a political solution (thanks, Einstein). I honestly don’t know what’s the right thing to do.
10. But ruling out all military action wasn’t it.