Labour’s green plans still don’t add up

Ed Miliband
Ed Miliband

As the chief architect of the 2008 Climate Change Act, Ed Miliband is more responsible than anyone for the dash to decarbonise the British economy. So his weekend interview with the Telegraph promising to scrap the current government’s target to ban new gas boilers by 2035 is as surprising as it is welcome.

Mr Miliband said “no one will be forced to rip out their boiler” and install new heat pumps. Instead, a Labour government would focus less on dates and more on incentivising people to change by offering cash grants towards alternatives.

No one should be fooled by this. With just over a week to go to the election Mr Miliband may be giving the impression that Labour would adopt a pragmatic net zero position. Yet for someone not fixated on dates and targets there are an awful lot of them in his party’s green plans. Foremost among them is a pledge to decarbonise the British economy within six years, an ambition so far removed from feasibility as to be laughable were the consequences of pursuing it not so great. In addition, Labour will return the phase-out date for internal combustion engine cars to 2030 from 2035.

The party’s entire strategy for government is predicated on the resurgence of UK economic growth, yet its green policies will act as a drag on investment, productivity and jobs. It is also selling the electorate a false prospectus. In order to meet these targets there will need to be the biggest expansion of the necessary infrastructure probably since the coming of the railways. Thousands of onshore windfarms would be needed along with hundreds of miles of new pylons to transport the energy around the country. All in six years?

Javier Cavada, the European boss of Mitsubishi Power, has warned that Labour’s green scheme roll-out would be prohibitively expensive and questioned whether completely eliminating emissions from gas-fired power plants, which generated one third of Britain’s electricity last year, was a sensible immediate priority. Labour’s windfall taxes on oil and gas will shut down domestic extraction but the country will still have to import the same fuels, thereby adding to the carbon emissions globally they seek to eliminate at home.

This debate is based on a range of unrealistic pledges which Mr Miliband and his party are prepared to perpetuate without coming clean about the impact they will have on all our lives. It is time for some honesty.