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22 December - Transcript of Ed Miliband and George Monbiot discussing the Copenhagen Accord


Channel 4 News

Monday 21 December 2009

Copenhagen Accord – Ed Miliband and George Monbiot


Alex Thomson, presenter: Well I'm joined again by the Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband who's in Westminster, and the environment campaigner George Monbiot is in Birmingham, gentlemen, good evening to you both.


George Monbiot, author and environmental campaigner: Good evening.


AT: Ed Miliband… it's a simple question - what on earth do we do about China? They don't want external inspection, they made it clear - you named them in the paper this morning?


Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change: I think that they have moved during the course of the year because a year ago they were saying they didn’t want to have targets for their carbon emissions - they've actually now put them on the table. They haven't taken the step of making them, or wanting to make them, legally binding, but I think what's interesting, is that the vast majority of countries – developed and developing countries - do want a legal treaty because they think it is the only way to get assurance that people are going to live up to their commitments. So…


AT: But just going forward, how do you therefore now get pressure - accepting what you just said - on the Chinese, to make the second movement?


EM: I think it's a combination of reassuring China, clearly more than we have done so far, that they have nothing to fear from being part of a legal treaty, and persuasion through a movement of countries in the developing and the developed world. Some of the most eloquent people who have spoken out for the legally binding treaty and indeed for the Accord that was agreed, are the Maldives, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Grenada…




EM: …because they see that this is progress - not enough progress - but we now need to move to that legal treaty.


AT: Right - George Monbiot, Ed Miliband's here for you, what should he do about China?


GM: Well I completely agree that China did its best to mess up the talks, but it is preposterous for Ed and for Gordon Brown to blame only China for the talks' collapse – in fact the role of the United States was just as destructive, Obama went behind the backs…


AT: Well I didn't ask him about the United States but…


GM: I beg your pardon?


AT: I didn't ask him about the United States, I was coming on to that, but carry on.


GM: Well I mean, it was the impasse between the US and China which was the problem. So yes by all means, we have to persuade the Chinese, but the only way to persuade them is to show that there's genuine movement from the rich nations and particularly from the United States, because the Chinese are quite right in saying that it’s us rich nations - the ones which have been rich for a long time - that have the historical responsibility for the great majority of greenhouse gas emissions, that we have had our fun, we've had our tremendous industrialisation and now that from the Chinese perspective, they’re saying - you’re stopping us from doing what we want to do. Now…


AT: OK Ed Miliband Barack Obama's just as big a problem as the Chinese.  He waltzed in and did things his own way didn't he?


EM: Well I agree with George to this extent, that we need Europe, we need the United States, we need countries like Australia and Japan to show more ambition, and that is one of the big tasks we face in the months ahead. But if you like, there are two issues here; the level of ambition in any treaty and whether we get a treaty. The issue with some developing countries, is they don't want a treaty at all that covers them, and that's the thing we need to get over. But I don't disagree with what George says - that we need to persuade other countries, and this is why the US Senate vote in the coming months, will be very important - including the US – to do as much as they possibly can to tackle the problem, because he's…




EM: …right to say that developed countries do bear responsibility for the problem at the moment, although going forward, developing countries will be responsible for the growth in emissions.


AT: Right - George Monbiot, briefly.


GM: Well I can't help noticing that Ed very carefully skirted around the fact that the US was just as much to blame as China. He says, yes developed countries must do their bit, but there’s some blockage that both Ed and Gordon Brown have got, where they can’t actually name the United States and Barack Obama as being part of the problem at Copenhagen.


AT: Ed Miliband.


EM: I don't agree with that. I think what I said very clearly is that we need more ambition, including from the United States but…


GM: But are they part of the problem or aren't… or perhaps you could give us the answer now, are they part of the problem or aren’t they part of the problem…


EM: Well I mean all…


GM: …was Barack Obama one of the obstacles…


EM: No.


GM: …to an agreement in Copenhagen?


EM: No… he wasn't, I don't think he was.


GM: That's preposterous.


EM: Well it's not preposterous, the truth is, as I've said, we need more ambition from the United States. But on the question of whether we have a legal treaty, which is very important to lots of people George, including yourself, it wasn't the United States that was saying we shouldn’t have a legal treaty.  Now I'm the first to say…


GM: But he utterly… refused to change his negotiating position.  And so he said to the Chinese, you must do as I say, but I'm not budging. Now of course in China, loss of face is a very major issue and he was effectively asking the Chinese to eat humble pie, while he wasn’t in any way, changing his minimalist negotiating position where he was saying we come with this pathetic package…




GM: …useless timetable, useless targets and he wasn't going to change it.


EM: I'm not here to defend the United States, but the thing I would point out is that one of the key demands of the United States, was they signed up to long-term finance as part of the Accord - they've done so $100 billion by 2020 a year. That's why I think, unlike George, it was right to agree this Accord - even though it’s incomplete, because it does represent progress…


AT: Right.


EM: …we now need to go further to get the legal treaty we need.


AT: OK let me just intrude for one second. A key point that Friends of the Earth were raising there Ed Miliband, that the fact that there is no binding legal agreement, means countries can use, as an excuse, to put off getting to one - that's a fair point isn't it?


EM: I think it is a problem, I agree with you - that's why we need to work very, very hard to get the legal treaty we need. That is the only thing that gives us the maximum assurance that countries will live by their responsibilities. I do think though, it's right to say, that to have rejected this Accord as some people like George have said, would have been frankly, a betrayal of many of the African states…




EM: …and the small island states like the Maldives, who said we need that money to flow…


AT: Right.


EM: …and that money is a crucial part of the agreement.


AT: George Monbiot, what good came out of Copenhagen?


GM: Well unfortunately, very little. I mean the problem we've got is that once you've lost some momentum behind negotiations like this, as Yvo de Boer the… head of the UN FCCC, the body which is overseeing the negotiations, told me last year. Once you've lost those… once you've lost that momentum, it's very hard to regain it and…


AT: Right OK - in a tweet as it were -in about 140 characters, what good came out of it?


EM: The good that came out of it was that compared to a year ago, we have significant cuts in emissions from developed countries, significant action from developing countries, and finance to help the victims of climate change - the poorest people in the world…




EM: …including in Bangladesh. And that is an important start, but there is a long way to go.


AT: That's one hell of a tweet, gentlemen we'll have to leave it there, but thanks very much for your time. Thank you both indeed.


GM: Thank you very much.  



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