Ed Miliband: Copenhagen was necessary failure on road to Paris

Some failures to be expected when trying to achieve difficult and important tasks, argues UK Labour leader

Pic: ARCHIVED Department of Energy and Climate Change/Flickr

Pic: ARCHIVED Department of Energy and Climate Change/Flickr

By Sophie Yeo

The UN’s disastrous climate summit in Copenhagen was a necessary failure on the road to a successful treaty in Paris next year.

That’s the view of the UK’s Labour party leader Ed Miliband, who as former climate change secretary led the UK’s delegation to the 2009 conference.

In a passionate address to campaigners at a meeting of the Green Alliance in London last night, Miliband said the environmental movement should demand even more ambition from government on tackling global warming.

“I think that actually Copenhagen goes with the territory of trying to do difficult things. In the history of the struggle for social justice, you always have setbacks along the way,” he said.

“It’s always about ambitions which look ludicrous and don’t get achieved and they take a number of goes along the way to achieve them. If it was easy it wouldn’t be ambitious enough.

“The reason why we have setbacks is because you as a movement were ambitious and we didn’t meet the ambition.

“But the answer is not to lower your ambition the next time round. It’s actually to say, ‘Well, we’ve still got the same ambition and we’re going to keep pushing and keep pushing until we actually succeed.’”

The UN’s Copenhagen conference was preceded by two years of intense diplomacy, with high hopes that it would culminate in a climate change deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

But the conference failed to deliver an agreement to limit warming to below 2C, a benchmark beyond which scientists say ever more dangerous consequences could be felt around the world.

In December 2015 in Paris, heads of states and leading officials from 195 countries will gather to try again to sign a deal.

Push for Paris

This time, the stakes are even higher. The UN’s science panel warned this year that greenhouse gas emissions increased faster than ever between 2000 and 2010, despite policies put in place to try to control them.

Without additional measures, temperatures could be 7.8C higher by 2100, with calamitous effects on people and ecosystems.

Miliband said that the environment movement must harness the Paris summit as an opportunity to push “whichever government” is in power to put forward more climate finance, help developing countries and deliver green technology.

He also said that the UK was best placed to tackle the problem from within the EU, and that the country would lose its influence if it left the region, which negotiates as a bloc at the UN climate talks.

The ruling Conservative party has promised a referendum on Britain’s membership to the EU in 2017.

But without the EU’s powerful backing, the UK would have been much less relevant to the recent deal struck between the US and China, which saw the two major polluters agree joint targets in the wake of an EU deal to reduce emissions 40% by 2030, Miliband said.

“Let us not fall for the myth that we’ll somehow be more influential and more powerful outside the European Union. We are much more powerful within it.”

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