Miliband tells Brown to go green or lose next election

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The Independent Online

Labour could lose the next general election unless it raises its game on green issues, the Environment Secretary, David Miliband, will warn today.

He will predict that credibility on the environment will be a "threshold issue" to rank alongside national security, the economy and public services. "Flunk on any of these and you are unelectable," he will say.

His hard-hitting speech to the Fabian Society will be seen as a barely coded warning to Gordon Brown not to allow the Tories, Liberal Democrats and Green Party to overtake Labour on the environment if, as widely expected, he succeeds Tony Blair next year. The Chancellor disappointed environmentalists by announcing only a limited package of green taxes in last week's pre-Budget report.

Mr Miliband will argue that Labour is the natural place for the green movement, which he will describe as a growing force in civil society now seeking a home in mainstream politics. "We have the right insights to battle against climate change, but we need to be tough-minded in updating the way we put them into practice," he will say.

Although he will launch a strong attack on the David Cameron's green credentials, his speech reflects concern among ministers that the Tory leader has made the running on the environment in the past year.

"We need to up our game. The vision of 1997 is not sufficient for 2007 - when the science has moved on, when popular concerns have moved on, when we as a party have moved on."

He will recall that 100 years ago, the failure of the Liberal Party to open itself up to new ideas led to the creation of Labour. "We should be proud of our record. But elections are not about thanks; they are about vision and change; and we need to show that we have the desire and the ideas to be the change," he will say.

Using the language of some of Mr Brown's flagship policies, Mr Miliband will propose a new "golden rule" to ensure "we do not mortgage the futures of our children in an unsustainable ecological debt". He will also call for a "new deal" to provide more help and rewards for people to save energy, recycle, and offset their transport emissions.

This would be part of an "environmental contract" between state, business and citizen that would become as strong as the social contract that has developed in the past 100 years - based on the need to live within environmental limits.

"We will need to take each aspect of policy from housing to transport to energy to food and farming and ask simply: what is the environmental footprint, and how can it be reduced not by a little but by a lot. But we will also need to change our approach to politics," he will say.

"There is not a big government solution to global warming. The only solution is smart government combined with motivated business and empowered citizens. That needs a new sort of politics. That is why this issue is so important - not just for the future of the planet but for the future of our government."

Mr Miliband will suggest that the Tories cannot tackle climate change because of their support for free markets, a minimal state and Euroscepticism. He will say centre-left parties around the world must grasp the nettle, but that it will not be enough to say they have the right values and instincts.

"We need to show that red and green traditions can challenge but enhance each other," he will say.