People Power Vital to Climate Deal - British Minister

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The Guardian/UK

People Power Vital to Climate Deal - British Minister

Miliband calls for global movement to pressure governments into action

by
David Adam and Juliette Jowit

A global campaign in the style of
Make Poverty History is needed to pressure political leaders into
sealing a treaty on tackling climate change, Ed Miliband, the environment secretary, has said.

Miliband told the Guardian a "popular mobilisation" was needed to help politicians push through an agreement to limit carbon emissions
in the face of concerns about the economy. "There will be some people
saying 'we can't go ahead with an agreement on climate change, it's not
the biggest priority'. And, therefore, what you need is countervailing
forces. Some of those countervailing forces come from popular
mobilisation."

He added: "I think back to Make Poverty History
... and that was a mass movement that was necessary to get the
agreement. In terms of climate change, it's even more difficult. There
are people who have legitimate concerns, whether it's businesses in
Europe who are concerned about competitiveness, or people who [ask] is
it really necessary to do this now."

His view comes as
environment ministers prepare to attend UN talks in Poznan, Poland, on
the likely shape of a global deal to succeed the Kyoto protocol. The
talks aim to secure an agreement at a meeting in Copenhagen this time
next year.

"When you think about all the big historic movements,
from the suffragettes, to anti-apartheid, to sexual equality in the
1960s, all the big political movements had popular mobilisation," said
Miliband. "Maybe it's an odd thing for someone in government to say,
but I just think there's a real opportunity and a need here."

He
denied trying to pass the responsibility for tackling global warming
from politicians to the public. "Political change comes from leadership
and popular mobilisation. And you need both of them."

Make
Poverty History made history itself when a coalition of British
charities and celebrities such as Bono and Richard Curtis rallied
hundreds of organisations from around the world, and millions of
individuals wearing white wristbands, to press the G8 group of leading
industrial countries to commit in 2005 to spend $50bn (£34bn) to tackle
global poverty.

Environment and development groups said campaigns
will grow in the run-up to Copenhagen, but warned they would include
protests against UK plans to expand aviation and new coal plants. "He
[Miliband] is going to get his wish, but he must be quite clear what he
wishes for because it's going to be very hardnosed," said Benedict
Southworth, director of the World Development Movement.

Ashok
Sinha, director of Stop Climate Chaos, a UK-based umbrella group of
organisations with 4 million members, said cutting domestic emissions
was the best way the UK could get global action. There is also concern
about the government's motivation, given there are several
organisations trying to get mass support. And there were warnings that
the climate would be hard to win public support for: first, because it
has had less time to build up - Make Poverty History was a decade in
the making; second, unlike action on poverty, individuals would have to
make personal sacrifices, such as flying less.

"It would be
helpful if there was a Make Poverty History mobilisation around climate
change, but that shouldn't preclude political leadership now ... we
need urgent action," said Mike Childs, head of campaigns for Friends of
the Earth in the UK.

Elsewhere talks are continuing in Brussels
on measures to cut EU carbon emissions by 20-30% by 2020. Last night it
emerged that the French president, Nicholas Sarkozy, and Germany's
chancellor, Angela Merkel, had agreed to push for the cuts.

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