Tackling climate change will be at the heart of the energy system if Labour succeeds in bringing the National Grid back into public ownership, Jeremy Corbyn has pledged.
In a speech delivered to a conference on alternative models of ownership, held in central London today (Saturday 10 February), the Labour leader made an environmental case for public ownership of the UK’s energy system.
In its general election manifesto last year, Labour pledged to renationalise water and energy network companies, including the National Grid.
Corbyn said: “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.
“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. To go green, we must take control of our energy.”
Corbyn also pledged a programme to retrain workers who are made redundant because of the transition to a greener economy.
He said “never again” would workers have to pay the price of energy transformation, like the coal miners hit by the mass pit closures of the 1980s and 1990s.
“Our energy system needs to change, but it cannot be workers who pay the price. So 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 if anyone is displaced by energy transition they will be: 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.”
And he said that tackling climate change required the kind of radical action taken by the 1945 Labour government to reorganise the economy after the Second World War.
“In 1945, elected to govern a country ravaged by six years of war, the great Attlee 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.”
Labour’s public ownership plans put the party in the vanguard of a worldwide push to restore democratic control over services and utilities, he said.
“From India to Canada, countries across the world are waking up to the fact that privatisation has failed, and taking back control of their public services.”
In its manifesto at the last election, Labour pledged to restore public ownership of energy utilities, kicking off with the National Grid and network companies.
The Centre for Policy Studies recently calculated Labour’s manifesto policies to renationalise water and energy network companies could cost up to £141.65 billion.