Bali Diary

Meeting the President of Guyana

November 27th, 2007

Phil Woolas with the Mayor of HeddonPhil Woolas, London, Tuesday 5pm - Things are moving apace. Commonwealth Parliamentarians meeting in House of Commons - I gave a little speech but the star billing was the President of Guyana, on his way back from Uganda via Heathrow. He wants a carbon market for deforestation and has radically offered international stewardship of his country’s forests (which are bigger than the whole of England). He made a plea for carbon markets and said he was wary of aid based schemes.

Sorry there’s no entry for yesterday but I spent it in Hull and the East Riding learning about what caused the floods or rather what, if anything, could have been done better. I met a lady called Joyce who is still living in a caravan on her drive - she hopes to be in her home for Christmas. Its out of the news now but the human impact remains.

A briefing on Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting decisions this afternoon followed by a preparatory meeting for Bali - more than 45 agenda items will need agreement, goodness it’s complicated. Hilary spoke to the CBI this morning. Their report on Climate Change is welcome and important and shows that tackling climate change is good for business - the Times put it on p.46!

I’m off to the MPs’ Warm Homes meeting tonight and missing Man United on TV - that’s commitment.

Debating the issues

November 22nd, 2007

Phil Woolas, London, Thursday afternoon - England are all over today’s papers!

Just had a debate in the Commons on Climate Change - one of the first of these new topical debates each week. Really good debate with all Members recognising the UK’s leadership but inevitably calls for us to do more. You can read the speeches in tomorrow’s Hansard and judge for yourself. For me, the consensus among back-bench MPs around smart metering and feed-in tariffs was important. Above all else though were Michael Jack’s remarks. He is the Chair of the Select Committee and a Conservative MP. He made a strong speech calling on the USA to show leadership and I will email his remarks to our Embassy in Washington so they can show the political consensus in Britain. A good example of how we attack each other here but stick together overseas.

Colin Challen MP, chair of the All Party Climate Change Group said he was off to Bali and that next week we have the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Climate Change Conference is here in London. Colin is a key opinion former.

All eyes now on Oz - have read in the paper today that Kevin Rudd has said he will ratify Kyoto and go to Bali if he wins on Saturday.

Got a long session with the Environment Agency now - we all want a 25 year plan for investment in flood protection and the environment. Who says we are all short term - I’ll be spending my days fishing in the rivers by then - I hope.

Getting carbon capture up and running

November 21st, 2007

Phil Woolas, London, Wednesday, 7pm: The East Asian Pacific Countries have signed a new climate change and forestry deal ahead of Bali. This is welcome as it builds the momentum but we wait the Australian election result this weekend. Lots of lobbying going on at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting  starting tomorrow in Uganda but the headlines will be about Pakistan.

Made my speech at the Forestry Commission this lunchtime with a strong message that Forests will be in the Bali talks and secondly that they had to be. Peter Snow was the chair and did a great job getting the discussions going (I used to work for him at Newsnight and so felt a bit like a trainee again). Its brilliant how forests have come to the top of the agenda. Earlier I met with my colleague Malcolm Wicks MP, Energy Minister and the Carbon Capture Association - we have just launched our  competition  to get the first Coal powered CCS power station so along with Norway and the USA we are ahead of the game. We HAVE to get this technology up and running - they are building a new coal fired power station every four days in China and they will have to have CCS technology. This is where we do agree with the Americans and the joint UK-China clean coal initiative launched on Tuesday is an important step.

Just a straw in the wind - I’ve been signing reply letters to MPs since the early hours (the box is not red, it’s a great big brown briefcase) - more on climate change than anything else, over a hundred have written in.

Come on England.

From Australia to Bridlington, via Mexico

November 20th, 2007

Phil Woolas with East Yorkshire MPsPhil Woolas, Tuesday - 6pm. 12 days to Bali. Mixed coverage of Gordon’s speech - good internationally and not so good here. (Nothing new there then). I’ve spent most of the day on the water strategy which we’ll publish in the new year. Basically we are using too much and we are going to have to change in a big way.

From water shortages to floods, as the Mexican Finance Minister came in. They’ve just had devastating floods on a scale we can’t imagine. Not surprisingly he thinks Bali is crucial. The Mexicans broadly agree with our position and are doing their own “Stern” type report - another example of UK leadership methinks. He wanted details of the finance mechanisms and what may or may not come out of Bali. A key question is - how to get the financial incentives in place to stop deforestation (I’ve got a speech on this tomorrow at the Forestry Commission).

From Bali to Beverley and Bridlington as East Yorkshire’s MPs brought a delegation to talk about the impact of coastal erosion. Their houses and roads are falling into the sea and it’s awful. I know the area well as we used to go to Brid every year for holidays - apparently our caravan site is going to disappear. I think we should be able to help them but even Government can’t hold back the sea!

Did an interview with Australian Radio - their equivalent of Today is covering Climate Change tomorrow. It’s a big issue in their election this weekend and they were trying to get me to say that we wanted Australia to sign up to Kyoto. I told them it wasn’t my place as a Pom Politician to interfere in their election but the answer was “Yes”. I might be famous or infamous in Australia for 15 minutes in the morning. Off to the House to catch up with casework and then going to the new press bar opening (no - it’s not subsidised you cynics).

The PM and the IPCC

November 19th, 2007

So - the Boss has made his speech and it seems to have gone down well. We’re very pleased in Defra that the issue is getting such support and the timing is great just after the IPCC. Our scientists in Valencia played a crucial role and we should be very grateful. I was late for the PM’s speech because I had a meeting with my German counterpart. They are one of our strongest allies and we had a good discussion about tactics in Bali which I obviously can’t tell you about!

My weekend, however, was interrupted by the Guardian who got hold of a internal document which - shock, horror, probe - shows that Defra is trying to balance our budgets!! I know its too much to ask that correspondents should read the Budget Books but if they did they would find that overall we have had an above inflation settlement from the Treasury, which is a bit different to a cut. Anyway it all made for a great story but it meant getting up for lots of interviews to comment on the IPCC (welcome) and the Guardian splash (not welcome). I did the last interview outside Boundary Park and missed Port Vale’s equaliser!

Tomorrow the Mexican Finance Minister is here. Mexico are absolutely crucial to Bali and having suffered terrible flooding recently really understand the threat of climate change. It will be a fascinating meeting because Mexico are, along with Brazil, India, South Africa and China, the leading developing countries.

Back in House of Commons - Job Done

November 16th, 2007

Phil Woolas, London, Friday 9.00am. Back in House of Commons - Job Done. The Mid Western Governors have signed up for a Carbon Trading Scheme and a climate change mitigation strategy. This will really help reassure the developing countries at Bali and will mean the US is taking the leadership mantle that the world is looking for. (Getting on for half of all states are now signed up).This is the most significant step forward for the forces of goodness and light since the Peace Prize. Of course it’s not reported in the newspapers, despite the huge implication for financial markets, let alone the climate change benefits.

By coincidence I bumped into John Prescott as I arrived at the House - he got it immediately and was thrilled.

Next stop is the IPCC final report from Valencia this Saturday - we will issue our statement straight away, along the lines of “The World Must Act” - all building pressure for Bali. Two weeks to go.

Off to the Constituency now to try and settle a big row about Latics (Oldham FC).

Phil

Up The Hill - Washington DC

November 14th, 2007

Phil Woolas at the Capitol, Washington DCPhil Woolas, Washington DC: It looks to me as though the United States is at the tipping point. Spent the morning with Jim Connaughton who, as President Bush’s Environment Supremo is one of the most powerful players in the Bali process - he has the power to make it or break it. Then up to ‘the Hill’ to discuss strategy with the Congressmen and Senators who are working on their own legislation. Their message was clear - there will be a US cap and trade system sooner or later. Senator John Kerry will be leading a Congressional delegation to the Bali meeting and he’s made it clear that he will be setting out the US Government’s ‘other’ position there if necessary.

Phil Woolas with climate change protestors, Washington DCOn the way to the airport to fly to Milwaukee we were stopped in the street by members of the League of Conservation Voters. A non-partisan group they lobby for a pro-environment US Congress — actively campaigning for pro- and against anti-environment congressional candidates. Apparently with considerable success! More info is at www.lcv.org.

This afternoon I feel like Daniel in the Lion’s Den - tomorrow I’m due to speak to some of the State Governors of the Mid-West. Where they make the cars and dig up the coal. If I can persuade them to come on board then Bali has a great chance.

Off to Washington

November 13th, 2007

Phil Woolas about to board a plane to the USPhil Woolas, London: Tuesday afternoon - off to America to try to persuade the Governors that they are missing the boat on cap and trade. Everyone knows that there’s going to be a carbon market so its a case of trying to get the USA in the right place. Everyone also knows that whoever wins the US Presidency, their policy will change. What’s amazing is that not one UK paper has reported Hillary Clinton’s amazing speech last Tuesday - in years to come it will be seen as a turning point and I bet they are reading it in Saudi Arabia. Three weeks to Bali and counting…

Bali - the big task

November 13th, 2007

Phil Woolas - London: Phil Woolas - Minister of State (Environment)We’ve got a big task ahead of us at the UNFCC meeting in Bali in December. We need to get governments from all over the world, with a huge array of different priorities, to sign up to the idea that we need a new climate deal in 2009. I want to use this to talk about the things that might not be reported in the news or written up in formal reports - because a lot goes on that doesn’t make the papers. I’ll be writing about my impressions of what I’ve seen, the meetings I’ve been in, things I’ve heard about, between now and when the Bali talks end in December.

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