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Ed Miliband and the tars of Canada

Kevin Gopal, Editor of the Big Issue of the North, attended a Manchester meeting ahead of Copenhagen

Published on December 10th 2009.

Ed Miliband and the tars of Canada

Climate change defeatism is as much of a problem as denial, said Ed Miliband in Manchester in his last public meeting before heading to Copenhagen. Both the government and the green movement are guilty of being too gloomy about the chances of preventing a critical two degree rise in global warming.

“What’s the point in buying a bank of you’re going to let it trash the world?” asked Mike Childs, head of climate change at FoE, to some applause.

“We can solve the problem of climate change but it requires us to make a start, and that’s why Copenhagen is so important,” insisted the climate change secretary. “If we get success, then a new chapter begins in the battle.”Miliband was speaking at a meeting on 8 December about climate change at the Manchester Central conference centre organised by the government and Friends of the Earth (FoE).

A deal at Copenhagen needs agreement on emissions cuts by richer countries, poorer countries limiting emissions growth, and money to help the developing world cope with the effects of climate change.

Even as he spoke, FoE was criticising a draft plan that leaked during day two of Copenhagen for favouring developed countries.

But Miliband said the government would commit to even deeper emissions cuts to bring about a “high ambition agreement” in the Danish capital.“I don’t necessarily say we’ll be where we need to be at the end of the Copenhagen conference but we’ll have come a long way,” he said.

Miliband wasn’t questioned further on the controversial leaked Danish text, nor at all on the damaging emails from climate scientists at the University of East Anglia. A question on whether the government ought to divert some of its defence budget to environmental spending was skirted.

He was also only able to pass on to the chancellor the audience’s concerns over the extraction of tar sands in northern Canada. Companies extracting this fossil fuel – said to cause three times the emissions of extracting conventional oil – are being backed by the part-nationalised Royal Bank of Scotland. By contrast, Len Wardle, chairman of the Co-op Group, also on the panel, said his business had funded indigenous Canadians’ legal campaign against tar sands extraction. Alistair Darling, said Miliband, was the RBS shareholder.

“What’s the point in buying a bank of you’re going to let it trash the world?” asked Mike Childs, head of climate change at FoE, to some applause.Childs was careful to praise Miliband for piloting through Parliament the world’s first climate change act, and for devising plans to implement it. But FoE disagreed on four points with him.

Even Britain’s pledge of deeper emissions cuts offered only a 50 per cent chance of avoiding a two degree rise. “That’s pitifully small and ought to be much higher. Morally that’s the right thing to do,” said Childs.

Second was the government’s commitment to carbon trading and offsetting, which Childs said was a device to allow the US to keep driving huge 4x4s and eating supersize Big Macs, and Europe to keep building airports and coal-fired power stations. “It’s a dangerous obsession that needs to stop.”

Third was the “desperate need” to ensure any deal at Copenhagen was legally binding and finally, there was a need to ensure that justice to developing countries was at the heart of agreements.

If technology doesn’t provide a cleaner form of aviation in coming years, Childs was willing to call for an end to flying to achieve G8 countries’ target of 80 per cent cuts by 2050 – a position neither Miliband nor Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, would endorse.

Leese was at the meeting to launch the city’s commitment to 41 per cent emissions cuts by 2020 – a first for a UK city. The plan was co-ordinated by the council but written by over 100 organisations, including FoE.

Leese admitted the council didn’t know yet how to fund or achieve the plan, Manchester: A Certain Future - Our Collective Action On Climate Change.It didn’t include Manchester Airport, owned by all the Greater Manchester local authorities, because it wanted to deal with what was practically achievable, not aspirations. But he insisted that progress on climate change could only be achieved if it could be shown that it would increase people’s quality of life, not reduce it, and benefit the economy.

“We have to be able to sell this to what is an enormous number of sceptics – and even the non-sceptics want someone else to do something about it.”For that reason, he said, the huge, bright Santa on Albert Square was staying.

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scoteeeDecember 10th 2009.

Look,you won't change the innevitable,just accept it,we cannot control climate change or slow it down.It's the butterfly effect and the whole chaos theory that makes it so difficult to predict more than a week in advance,our planet is and has been dying for thousands of years.I am getting fed up with being taxed for it by idiots with calculators working out my poxy carbon footprint.If you want my money now and in the future, stop this pissy weather then I won't feel so agrieved

smittyDecember 10th 2009.

The Manchester plan can be seen at http://www.manchesterclimate.com/Also, for goodness' sake, give Santa a break! He costs the equivalent of boiling two kettles and is much more energy efficient than the last, much lamented inflatable Santa who used to climb the clock tower!

Anthony McCaulDecember 10th 2009.

Oh... and as for Santa - he's more environmentally friendly that the blow up one there used to be! Apparently he uses less electricity and all that... Ask Manchester's very own Mr Christmas Pat Karney - he'll tell ya!

Anthony McCaulDecember 10th 2009.

I was at the meeting - it was really good with lots of contributions. The Co-op guy was a hoot - and panelists really new their stuff. Did concern me that it was people talking to the converted. If we're going to get climate change behaviour change to tackle this and cut emissions we need to figure out a way to talk to people about this on different levels to engage them with this. Parroting on about banning flying or telling people they cant eat meat is not the way to do it to be honest! We need to bring people along with us to make a difference. All good though - and as usual Manchester is leading the way with our Climate Change Action Plan - Manchester - A Certain Future... take a read!

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