Hugging huskies will not solve ‘ultimate challenge’ of climate change, UK Labour leader says in plea for end to photo-op politics
By Megan Darby
“Climate change is, in a way, the ultimate challenge to politics because it is an incredibly long term problem.”
Those were the words of Ed Miliband, UK Labour leader, as he kicked off his party’s summer campaign with a speech decrying “photo-op politics”.
The opposition leader, who has been ridiculed in the media for his inelegant way of eating a bacon sandwich, addressed his awkward image head on.
Admitting that looking good for the camera was “not where my talents lie”, Miliband, who was UK climate and energy chief between 2008-2010, called for a more substantial politics based on ideas and principles.
In a series of digs at David Cameron, he highlighted the prime minister’s apparent change of heart on green issues.
“If principle simply becomes replaced by expediency, then all it does is add further to cynicism,” said Miliband.
“The sense that politics is just a game. Like when someone hugs a huskie before an election and then says cut the green crap after it.”
That was a reference to Cameron’s famous 2006 photo shoot with sledding dogs in the Arctic, as he highlighted the threat of climate change.
Then in 2013, Cameron reportedly ordered ministers to “cut the green crap” – levies on energy bills to support environmental policy. Cameron denied using those words, but cuts to energy efficiency programmes went ahead.
In response to a question from the audience, Miliband said climate change was “really important”.
It was an example of the shortcomings of “photo-op” politics, he said. “Climate change is, in a way, the ultimate challenge to politics because it is an incredibly long term problem.
“Any action you take now is going to be not apparent for 30, 40 or 50 years.”
Despite that challenge, he said “I deeply care about climate change” and he had raised the subject with US president Barack Obama at a meeting earlier this week.
Miliband added: “It is not just a question about the environment, it is about how we create the jobs of the future.”
As energy secretary in the previous administration, Miliband was credited with saving the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks from total failure, in a last-minute intervention.
However, Miliband has been accused of populism himself, with a pledge to freeze energy prices if elected in 2015. Critics warned that could harm investment in clean technology.