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Carbon Capture Climate Change Social Change

Triumph Voluntary : Bigger than Coal

In the hallway supping on orange juice and ice, I turned off the Sky Eternal Non-News on a fat, loud TV because I saw someone standing in front of it in a hynotic trance. He complained, but didn’t demand the show turned back on. Thankfully that provided the quiet for us all to talk some to each other and read a little.

At the Fabian Society conference “Six Months to Copenhagen”, I read the summary pages of a publication called “The Green Crunch” written by Sir John Harman : “Green politics has got it wrong and must embrace globalisation”. Sorry, we all love trade, but we don’t all love over-consumption. “There are many aspects of current green politics – especially its attitude to science – that are dangerously irrelevant.” Excuse me ? There are green scientists ! “The interest that the Government is showing in personal carbon allowances is worrying…authoritarian.” And universal uploading of smart metering data isn’t authoritarian ?

We assemble in the briefing room. On one side of me was a Price Waterhouse Cooper employee admiring the “soft focus” of the RSPB campaign document in the delegate pack. On the other side of me was a Labour activist asking “where are the media ?” the answer to which has to be “we are the media”. And over the shoulder strides a woman carrying a Friends of the Earth flyer that reads “Carbon Trading : The greatest con trick in the world”.

When he came into the room, the first thing I noticed was that Ed Miliband’s hair was most exceptionally shiny and glossy. This sharply-suited baby father. He should be doing hair advertisements.

Tim Horton of the Fabian Society introduced the Minister for Energy and Climate Change by saying he’s recently returned from paternity leave, and that we wouldn’t be asking him whether he is using reusable nappies [diapers], and that he would answering some questions put to Twitter.

Ed Miliband stood up. “Thanks everyone for turning out. I hope we can use [the time] to think and discuss about how to get the deal we need [at Copenhagen]…about how we can make sure it happens…good spread from across society [represented here]…The UK Climate Impacts Programme [reported recently about the] scale of what will happen. [We can no longer say] “it won’t happen to us”.”

“Look at the impact on our own region – [we can] see quite stunning impacts if we don’t act. [The effects of heat in the year] 2003 [was] bringing home [what] Climate Change in action [is like]…Two years ago in my constituency, the High Street was flooded and people were being hauled out of first floor windows. [We can’t say whether any particular storm or flood is the direct result of Global Warming but] due to Global Warming we’ll have more [and more of this].”

“Two months ago in China I went to Minchin – remote back of beyond – off the beaten track – I was talking to a farmer. He was concerned about the advancing of two deserts. [If they meet] it will make the livelihoods of 300,000 people impossible [because of] water [scarcity] and cause sandstorms in Beijing. [Places hand on heart] I think they relate, better than statistics, the anxiety [of ordinary people].”

“More and more governments get this. China get this. [Many governments now see Climate Change] as a problem to be tackled. The view of the Chinese leadership is different than a few years ago. The US debate has been transformed by Obama. We are increasingly seeing governments alive to the scale of the problem…I was in Paris for the Major Emitters Forum…tomorrow I’ll be in Mexico…”

“On the other hand, Governments face difficult and compelling constraints to getting a deal. This is the thing that keeps me awake at night [not the baby, then] – how to match the scale of the science challenge with the political response. In China there are 500 million people living on less than a dollar a day and they want 8% [Economic] Growth. The US needs to get 60 votes for legislation, 67 for the international treaty…The European Union [is facing] a time of economic difficulties but needs to be part of financing the global deal.”

“The Climate challenge for us as campaigners and politicians is how we move the politics in the next few months. As far as possible (I’m on the “art of the possible”) [so that the policy] matches the science. [It will be] stunningly difficult to and from Copenhagen to build consensus. Got to span parties and different political systems. [Climate Change has to] become part of the political landscape. We have to change [the] policies to match the science as far as possible.”

“(1) The political argument – central for tackling Climate Change. I think that what’s important to realise – if we leave this as a debate (green organisations get this better) about numbers, [accounting and] financial managerialism we will put people off. We have to make it a much bigger [approach] about the society we believe in. The central point is about future generations. [It’s not] a recipe for defeatism. The action we take now has an impact in 40 or 50 years’ time. I’m hoping to be around in 50 years time, just not in this job !”

“[Our political argument has to be] an argument that goes beyond our lifetime. [What Anthony Giddens styles] the Gidden’s Paradox. Shouldn’t shy away from making a very long-term argument. An argument about equality between generations. The promise of life in human progress, [we must] ensure that continues. Fairness to future generations. Custodians of the planet. It’s partly about how do you want to be remembered by history. Do we want to be remembered as the last generation not to get it, or the first generation to get it.”

“There is a danger, a tendency to moralism, but it’s an important part of the argument. The most profound effects on now and future generations. An argument about altruism and an argument about interests today.”

Unless we can make it an argument about prosperity not austerity we can’t get the Chinese to [join in]. Transition Towns, important though that movement is (I was a Keynote Listener at one of their conferences), I got into an argument with people there about about no-growth hair-shirtism. I don’t think anti- or low-growth policies will work with us. It won’t work with China and it won’t work in my constituency. Lots of aspects of Copenhagen people don’t like, [we need to] come to terms with. [There are] other things in life besides lifestyle – a sense of duties to future generations and about about self interest.”

“The Government has been weak in showing a greener world. We are trying to ensure a better Quality of Life. All of those things (Transition Towns community etc are) partly about saying we can do this on the basis of combining to meet needs. Different growth. Different quality of life.”

“(2) The nature of a global deal: There is a seeming paradox – we need to find a way of transcending it. [The problem that the developed countries caused most of the emissions so far in history that has already caused] 0.6 degrees, or is it 0.8 degrees Celsius rise in global temperature. It’s not a result of our (developing) country actions. It’s a result of your actions.”

“Reference is made to the expression “You’ve taken up lots of [my] Carbon space !” This is the first half of Miliband’s Paradox. The second half is – if you look you will find three quarters of Growth to 2050 will be from developing countries. Even if we shut down our emissions tomorrow [we will] still not be able to [stablise process]. [To] overcome this apparent paradox, developed countries leadership is incredibly important. Go first. Do more. The per capita emissions in developing countries still lower. We have to go as far and as fast as we can.”

“In the US this is what is hard. US has set a goal of reducing by 20% by 2020, but the science says 25% – 40%. Push as far and as fast as possible. Not too far off targets. Get developing countries to move away from Business As Usual. Our emissions will increase for some time to come but we have got to get back to a lower level later (see article in The Guardian).”

“China is incredibly serious about Renewable Energy. China’s interim target for 2020…If we can get 6 countries by December it will be possible to get a projection. Surely about finance and technology, we have got to be candid. Make the argument to accept our responsibility to finance developing countries. Even if we didn’t think it’s right in principle. We have an economic interest in making these, financing these, changes. We’ll see all the effects in the UK.”

“We also have to see the global Carbon market as part of this. Why is this an important thing to have ? Given the scale and the costs. Do need to find ways to get least cost. If we can find ways to get funds to flow to developing countries – to China and others. Not to say that Carbon market on its own is [important]. We need institutions, [of the] right weighting and voice. Let’s find a new mechanism and institutions to reflect balance.”

Our Copenhagen manifesto will be published on Friday. We hope will stimulate debate. Global deal has got to meet the demands of the science. Got to find a way to avoid dangerous Climate Change – 2 degrees Celsius of warming. We need developed and developing countries to be part of this. Don’t let either side off the hook.”

“(3) The kind of campaign we need. It’s too important to be left to Government. All the great campaigns [came about] because people demanded they happen – not just Government thought [they should]. All of them seemed impossible, but…The campaign about New Coal in the UK. It is sometimes hard for green movement to make strides forward. It’s true that the green movement campaign has changed the debate. We’ve come out with a policy – widely acknowledged – we are no longer building unabated coal [no development without] Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).”

“Unfortunately the Copenhagen task is even bigger than Coal. I don’t know if we have the kind of campaign we need – the sense of popular mobilisation – the sense that we have a make or break month [December 2009]. Despite the differences we can still get a global deal. It can’t wait. How do we spread this message more widely – galvanise people ? How do we make sure the [legitimate] domestic campaign doesn’t mean we lose sight of how we do the bigger deal ? It’s important for the whole green movement eyes to be kept on the much bigger prize. Part of it is about a much simpler “ask”. Partly about the widest possible coalition. A whole range of organisations want to be part of this but haven’t found a way […] put off. Unless politicians’ feet are held to the fire won’t get [action] we need.”

The sense of global movement is not what I hoped. But we have more of a chance of a global deal than when I got this job. Clever people said to me “Obama will have other things to worry about in his first year. Maybe he’ll to it in his second year. The first speech he said, “send me a Cap and Trade bill”. Major landmark. Other people told me China will not be interested in a global deal. They are desperate for a global deal because they see effects, see it happening. Australia was really inadequate – negative ambition there. Now they’ve upped their targets.”

“There are important reasons for optimism if we get it right. Don’t let anyone tell you Copenhagen is too complicated to get a deal by the end of the year. [There are] financial and technological developed and developing nation targets. It will be a major and historical step forward. We need the deal to be right. We need the campaign to be right.”

Later in questions :-

We are not going to reach 40% reductions by 2020…the art of the possible. Find environmental pathways that can meet science demand with commitment that we will be setting out…40% will be a working aim…”

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