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A stark message from the Milibands on climate change

Susan Watts | 19:26 UK time, Tuesday, 8 September 2009

It was a double act with a certain air of the hastily convened about it. The foreign secretary, David Miliband, and his brother, Climate Change Secretary Ed, together sounded the alarm this morning over the state of talks leading to the crunch Copenhagen meeting in December, which is aimed at agreeing a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

The pair stood together as a symbol, they said, not only of the importance of the issue, but because it must be tackled across government - stressing that climate change traverses not only environmental concerns, but is of economic, national security and foreign policy significance too.

Well that much is not new...

Their joint message today was however a stark one: "There is a real danger that the talks scheduled for December will not reach a positive outcome and there is an equal danger that in the run up to Copenhagen people don't wake up to the danger of failure until it's too late," David Miliband said.

The problem, he said, is not that the need is less urgent, or that the technology is not there with solutions, but that the issue is a hugely complex one, that the world faces other pressing global issues, and that there remains suspicion between the developed and developing world about each others' motivations and intentions.

Europe, he said, must now unite in a joint effort. He is due to hold talks with France, and Sweden, which holds the current EU presidency, to stress the point later this week.

And he used a curious phrase, saying that Europe has a potential not only to lead, but to be a "force multiplier" for the negotiations, by tapping into its political friendships. Well I think I know what he means...

So what of rumours of a special deal between the US and China that's supposed to rescue Copenhagen, as other countries coalesce around it?

It is surely not helped by the difficulties that US climate legislation is currently facing in Congress.

I asked to what extent the US problems had prompted today's call for Europe to take a lead. The foreign secretary said the plea "reflects the fact that we are worried".

But is this gloomy prognosis really justified? Perhaps this is some kind of reverse bluff.

Only yesterday, the new Japanese government tripled its emissions reduction commitment, to 25% on 1990 levels by 2020 - a move which David Miliband himself described this morning as "very significant indeed".

On the other hand, as we heard form commentators on Newsnight earlier this month it is now recognised that a "political surge" is needed to re-energise the talks.

So if this morning's briefing was the UK's attempt at that, it'll be interesting to see who else might now follow.


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    It would appear that this blog is nothing other than yet another BBC man made climate change political propaganda exercise. Next thing they will be telling us that this year was one of the warmest on record. Relatively freezing summer in the north of the UK, ice storms on the north coast of the north island of New Zealand, worst snow in the Falklands since 1995. Looks like the King Canute supporters are out in force.

  • Comment number 3.


    If I remember rightly, just a monetary crisis ago, Miliband D was our climate guru. He was 'open to ideas' - and then closed. Then, suddenly, Miliband D was all-knowledgeable in matters foreign, and LO! his brother, Limited Ed, felt the mantle of ecological guruship upon him.

    What is the message? The message is that, when it comes to saving the planet, any old Miliband will do, regardless of knowledge, experience or skill. This is how we do governance.

    The truth, British, American or World truth, is that the supposed threat of climate change is a bit of a hobby. It is certainly not a war (unlike 'On Terror'). In war time you get scared and serious. You don't ask "please may I put a beach-defence up Mr Local Council" you take powers and wham! Nor, it seems, is it on a par with a threatened banking system! That gets sorted - no expense spared.
    If we had prepared for German invasion, in the lacklustre way we are approaching renewable energy provision, wir sind noch Deutche menschen.

    But most depressing, is that we have all been sold the anthropogenic CO2 temperature-rise, believed by the Milibands as gospel BECAUSE THEY LACK SCIENTIFIC NOUS and are not approaching this in at-all the right way.
    What a joke that the mantra is 'CHANGE' on all sides, for change, is what we should be ready for - CHANGE OF A CHAOTIC KIND unpredictable, and requiring wise, competent, FLEXIBLE governance. Milibands that aint.

  • Comment number 4.

  • Comment number 5.


    this is the govt that blocked at every turn a feed in tariff and micro generation. whenever challenged they would bring out the figures for offshore windpower [the most expensive route] rather than local use of factory roof and industrial estate which is the model everyone else uses.

    this is the govt that does not challenge the energy companies over their prices even though gas is at a 7 year low.

    given mi6/mi5 place their retirees in energy companies its clear energy policy is an establishment stitch up? and why nothing is done on this scandalous rippoff against the british people?

  • Comment number 6.

    When, even in the relative comfort zone of the BBC and the Guardian, your (possibly well meant) efforts and or possibly are universally panned, the time for a change, of tack at the very least, must surely be at hand.

    'a double act with a certain air of the hastily convened about it' - They really are throwing the A team at this, aren't they?

    How the heck are we going to inspire coherent action from the majority of the population, when those few 'leaders' we have who do seem to have some inkling that this might be worth addressing (one hopes with the right reasons in mind) are either numpties, crooked, rampant hypocrites or (worst in my book) plainly incapable of a) understanding science (they all seem to have got z's in Politics at Oxford and seem to take verbatim whatever lobbysist - pro or anti climate-cause - who walks in their door as gospel) or b) identifying with the hopes, fears, aspirations and willingness to help of the vast majority of real folk just a tad fed up with being patronised, fined or cheated by a totally out of touch elite.

    David Miliband sets out to shock on global warming tour

    When I saw the picture, I thought he was planning to come up on delegates and go 'Boo!'

    But no.

    David Miliband will address EU, French, Swedish and Danish foreign ministries, [evidently to date unaware] of the spectre of a 4C warmer world, with alligators basking off the coast of Sweden, a vast desert surrounding the Mediterranean and a largely uninhabitable mainland Europe.

    That should have them reeling in the aisles.

    Maybe they will, as they are foreign ministries and this is from the climate side of things, and not all have brothers who know such things and doubtless shared it in the treehouse last night

    If not... He then travels to New York.


    I am sure they will all give Miliband. D a Gold Star for his latest effort. What is it about the man that everything comes across as an 11+ project?

    Meanwhile, at another token effort near you, our pols show just how much they have grasped not just the issues, but the public mood:

    Brown turns down heat and Mandelson gets on his bike to support 10:10

    Read the pledges, and what folk think of them.

    And this morning I heard the Director General of the Government's climate change task force (a title like that's got to be £150kpa minimum) taken apart by Eammon Holmes (not an interviewer of great surgical skill you'd have thought) over some pretty daft claims. And it certainly didn't help his case when he tried to mollify those he seems to have told 'must' cut 90% of their emissions to keep their air industry going, by then saying he and his brood were off several times a year and might knock a couple of their international flights out in future to chip in.

    I can see how that might have gone down with both the staycation brigade and those who could only afford a wet weekender in Tenby.

    And talk about shifty. You could almost see him trying to scoot off stage left to get to the warm embrace of a BBC studio asap where, from what I read here, the greeting might have been a tad frosty if this is the calibre of GOAT herd mentality sound bites we are supposed to swallow.

    Live Q&A: David Miliband on the Copenhagen summit

    Yes, that is the picture I would have chosen, too.

    3. At 9:05pm on 08 Sep 2009, barriesingleton

    What is the message? The message is that, when it comes to saving the planet, any old Miliband will do, regardless of knowledge, experience or skill. This is how we do governance.

    But most depressing, is that we have all been sold the anthropogenic CO2 temperature-rise, believed by the Milibands as gospel BECAUSE THEY LACK SCIENTIFIC NOUS and are not approaching this in at-all the right way.

    A leader to follow to the ends of the earth, indeed. Shame my comment was removed by the comment is free brigade elsewhere for pondering, and posting a helpful link on wikipedia to the sources of education that qualified this claim in a Q&A:

    Qu - What was it that first convinced the Foreign Secretary of the threat from global climate change?

    Ans - Reading the science, understanding its consequences, and realising it was a political issue not a technological one.

    Ain't censorship grand?

    The sad thing is that I do believe there are things that can and need to be done, but the explanations, words and conflicting actions of the current crop of the inept and/or bandwagon jumpers is simply making a bad situation a ton worse as those that are open and might be wavering take one look and fall into the 'anyone who is not these clowns' camp.

    When can we get qualified advocates who can convey that they have understood the issues and what they mean to the public at large, especially in the face of a welter of other concerns.

    And I don't mean Mr. Call Me Dave 'stick it on the roof, see if it spins and who salutes' Cameron either.

  • Comment number 7.

    if Brown stays organising the deckchairs for next election the Milli bothers would be handing out the tickets as we slip slowly bebeath the waves.......

  • Comment number 8.

    If Britain is still building new airport capacity then all this talk is just exacerbating global warming with more hot air - if they are not even able to 'stop digging' by keeping a lid on aviation, then how on earth are they ever going to get to the point of CUTTING carbon emissions ??

    Copenhagen, like Kyoto, will be a busted flush, and then the hedge fund speculators will be betting the ranch on the oil price hiking up to $200 a barrel as no-one has the will to put a brake on demand and supply start to slow.

    It could be worse, I could be a polar bear...

  • Comment number 9.

    "YOU'VE ALL DONE VERY WELL!" (all posts)

    #4 Thanks for the link. The first part
    grist to my mill (my copy of 'Cataclysm' is looking at me as I type).
    But when he morphed into David Eyck 2, I parted company.

    #5 Still with you on that one. Never a Miliband when you need one.

    #6 What a wonderful tirade - could have been a script for one of the legendary stand-up comedians. Had me howling.

    #7 A perfect post-script to #6.

    #8 And the polar bear gag - a mint with coffee.

  • Comment number 10.

    I don't understand why you report was only about aviation. As far as I remember from the govt's Stern report, things like shipping, agriculture and insustry create significantly more CO2 than aviation. So why focus on a minority area rather than the whole picture including the bigger issue areas? Just because a report names aviation doesn't mean that you have to niavely buy that as the biggest issue behind the story. The actual facts would suggest otherwise?

  • Comment number 11.

    10. At 11:03pm on 09 Sep 2009, pasathome wrote:
    I don't understand why you report was only about aviation.

    A certain irony to that, as I read the comments in the next post to last night's show.

    9. At 4:01pm on 09 Sep 2009, barriesingleton :
    #6 What a wonderful tirade

    I'll take that in the spirit:) I do confess to 'We mean just you lot, not us' types just in from across the planet they and only they are here to save getting easy passes does push a few buttons, though I see last night's show it seems an elegant eyebrow might have been raised a tad and the irony sunk in.


    'Contraception cheapest way to combat climate change'

    Why do I suspect that many, currently active in the cc arena, will be studiously ignoring this option (which need not be Hitlerian or even Chinese in approach despite the rhetoric being stirred up) whilst generating a lot of heat and noise in more 'acceptable' areas?

    And, ironically, for once find themselves supported from those at the other end of the spectrum. Strange bedfellows. Let's hope that the usual result of such a shared experience does not continue to haunt certain parts of the planet in 9 month cycles.

    At least if Milibands D. & E. share a bath, there can only be a positive outcome. Though circling the globe in their Caravans of Carbon to extol such measures seems... quaint in comparison given the above.

    And if the likes of these inspiring leaders do decide to embrace this route, the thought of they and their extensive GOAT teams' hamfisted attempts to put this case in a way to engage support from the target audiences is too horrible to contemplate.

    Next time the bros from the Westminster 'hood visit the Indian subcontinent, if they have solar DAB digital radios with 'em to give away... look out!

  • Comment number 12.


    (Re-posted from other thread as no connection - or battery flat.)

    I have tried to alert Susan Watts to the an electrically suffused (plasma) universe, whose parameters have been defined and integrated over 50 years, and which now constitutes a paradigm that 'out performs' the Big Bang (gravity-only) universe when tackling the more perplexing phenomena of cosmology. She seems uninterested.

    Electricity flows in plasma and can induce further flows, magnetic effects, attraction and repulsion. Earth's electrical activity is not just lightning and Aurora - we are PLUGGED IN to the Electric Universe.

    To take the unproved (unprovable) CO2-based heating as the lone source of temperature rise (if such there be) without even a glance at 50 years of available scholarship, to my mind, is to be a poor scientist.

  • Comment number 13.

    Political surge? Milibands?

    All the government /Milibands can do is talk - How about actioning some real energy sustainable, environmentally appropraite initiatives in the UK such as tax and fiscal incentives for new sustainable energy facilities etc.

    More action - Less talk please - Messrs Milliband - We know how much you like the sound of your own voices?

  • Comment number 14.

    "Their joint message today was however a stark one" - David Miliband is very much into stark messages as in this quote at the Audit Commission annual lecture, 19 July 2006: “So the science is increasingly stark. The potential to solve climate change is increasingly in our hands. Public awareness and concern has never been higher. The challenge is to translate awareness into action". From the Institute for Public Policy Research, where Mr Miliband was a Research Fellow in the 1990s, came this advice the following month for public agencies interfacing with the public:
    “ is our recommendation that, at least for popular communications, interested agencies now need to treat the argument as having been won. This means simply behaving as if man-made climate change is real, and that individual actions to prevent further change will be effective. The UK Government’s new climate-change slogan—‘Together this generation will tackle climate change’ (Defra 2006)—is but an example of this approach. It constructs...its own factuality." Warm Words, IPPR, August 2006.
    From 2001 to 2007 DEFRA spent £110 Million on environmental campaigns, a major part of which was devoted to promoting the concept of anthropogenic global warming.


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