We need eco-extremists says government Minister

by Michael Smith

The scale of the popular movement and the force with which activists and agitators deliver their arguments is key to the success of any future international agreement to tackle climate change.

These were the somewhat surprising words of the new Secretary of State for Climate Change and Energy, Ed Miliband, when he spoke at the Environment Agency's conference recently.

Are we hearing right? Apparently so.

"We need the utopians and we need the agitators," Ed Miliband said.

"We need the people who say that people like me aren't doing enough."

The Minister spoke about the massive popular mobilisation of the Make Poverty History campaign in the run up to the Gleneagles G8 summit in 2005, saying that had made a huge difference to the outcome of the gathering of world leaders.

Secretary of State for Climate Change and Energy told delegates how, at the time, musician-turned-campaigner Bob Geldof had shouted at him down the phone, arguing his case in no uncertain terms.

“Bob Geldof can be a pain in the ****, but it's incredibly important that people like that are part of the climate change movement,” he said.

“When the United Nations holds its climate change conference in Copenhagen in 2009, the outcome will be shaped in part by the apparent level of public concern,” he said.

“When I came into this job I didn't know as much as I should have done about Copenhagen 2009 as a red letter day in relation to climate change,” said Mr. Miliband.

The Minister said that whether we get an agreement or not will be partly defined by the strength of the popular movement around the world.

Mr. Milliband said that it was vital for activists to form global networks that would help give their message more weight.

Now who would have thought that we would hear something like that from a Minister of this government? About time they – and hopefully the rest of the world – woke up.

The British government wants the world to reach an agreement on climate change, Mr,. Milliband said, but, he said, this will not be an easy task.

Now, especially if the USA is still blocking every move as it did under Bush then we will have great difficulties getting anywhere. But I also know that many of the activists do not have all the correct facts, as regards to the supposed heating of the planet. Those scientists that speak against it or that spoke against it seem to have, unfortunately, bee silenced and they refuse to tell us why they do not say anything further.

“Given the economic backdrop this is a very big challenge we face,” said the Minister.

“This can't be done by government alone, it needs a popular movement to make this happen. That movement needs to do more to find its international voice.”

Mr. Milliband also commended the work of local councils and stressed the need for everyone to play their part.

“I think the work that local authorities are doing is incredibly important because it makes people in local areas change the way they live and change their ways for the better,” he said.

“It signs people up and gets them involved in the bigger ideas about the need to tackle climate change.

“The most important thing of all is that people can say of us in decades to come 'these people saw the scale of the challenge, they saw the threat that was posed by climate change and despite tough times they did act and they did make a difference to ensure we met our obligations to future generations.”

But there are certain aspects where the local councils have not thought things out very well and neither has central government and this is when it (1) comes to the fortnightly collections and (2) when they try to fine people who do not recycle “properly”. Instead of fines we need financial incentives for people to recycle, like in other countries. But, in Britain it is always fines and threats rather than incentives in this department. This country likes to tax its people rather then rewarding them.

I just hope that the Minister reads the Green (Living) Review and that he might read some of the constructive criticism that I try to give them.

© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008