21 December - Transcript of Ed Miliband on the Climate change summit
BBC Radio 4
Sunday 20 December 2009
Climate change summit - Ed Miliband
Paddy O'Connell, presenter: In Copenhagen the largest and leakiest summit of our age has ended. So we'll begin with a first-hand account from the man who was in the room as the climate deal, that is not legally binding, was apparently saved from being no deal at all. He's the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband. Good morning.
Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change: Good morning Paddy.
PO: Would you kindly give me an account of your final few hours in Copenhagen.
EM: It was all pretty mad really. I was going home to… well, going back to my hotel room – it felt like home – at about 4am, thinking that there was the plenary session which was agreeing the deal was, sort of, carrying on, but it looked like it was OK, and then I was told that actually the deal looked like it might be just blocked completely. So I - because the Sudanese delegate, in particular, had compared the deal to the holocaust and was trying to whip up anger against it, there were about four or five countries who were trying to block it – so I came back and tried with others to get it through and we managed to stop it being blocked while not getting the, kind of, full endorsement we would have hoped for.
PO: And, just for the sake of history, were you in your pyjamas?
EM: I think I was in my underwear – I hate to say that, a rather terrible thought – on Sunday morning. I hadn't quite got into bed yet. So it was all mad. Look, the wider point to this is that, the frustration about this summit was that there was a lot of substantive progress that’s been made in the last year…
EM: …but the process in the end strangled the kind of agreement we would have wanted, the arguments about process and the wrangling about process, some of which was happening late in… well, early on Fri… on Saturday morning.
PO: So it's fair to say that our listener, who maintains an open mind, would be right to say this was the closest thing to chaos among world leaders that they've seen this decade. We had a Venezuelan reported to have held up her hand, bloodied, we've had a Sudanese delegate comparing climate change to the holocaust, we've had you rushing around in the middle of the night. It was, was it not, not the greatest hour for the leaders of the world?
EM: No, it was, sort of, the most chaotic show on Earth in a way, and that's pretty depressing and frustrating. I think, underneath that, there are substantive issues for countries like China. I mean, why have we not got a legal agreement, or why have we not got a timetable to a legal agreement, because countries like China and India and others have made progress in the sense that they accept having targets, and that is a huge amount of progress from where we were a couple of years ago and show the developed and developing world acting together, but they don't yet want legally binding targets for their country internationally because they say it's the developed world that must take the lead. Now we accept we must take the lead but we also think everyone eventually is going to need to be part of a legal agreement. So that's why, if you like, it’s an incomplete agreement because there are certain stages to it that haven’t yet been agreed.
PO: Was it worth saving - you've described your role - and I might say that that's independently verified by newspapers this morning - you've given perhaps a fig leaf to China then?
EM: We thought, in the final hours, with Europe's leaders… Europe's leaders discussed whether we should let this go ahead or whether we should say we’ll just block the agreement. I think the… it would have been irresponsible in the end to block the agreement because we knew that, for example, there'll be money flowing to the developing world both immediately and in the longer term, $100 million in the longer term, a year, and to have said no to that agreement, and know also, when a lot of progress has been made throughout the year of countries putting targets on the table including, to be fair, China and India and Brazil and those other countries, I think, you know, in a sense we've tried to capture the progress that has been made while accepting there is a lot more progress to be made, and I think to have dumped that, I'm not sure where that would have left us. I think, sort of, catastrophe theory, saying let’s just create a catastrophe in the hope things might get better, isn't necessarily the answer.
PO: And where does this leave science, do you think? It seems to us slightly bruised. The email fiasco beforehand, the whole question of climate change and what the manmade role is, has been openly brought into question. What has science taken away from this meeting of politicians?
EM: Well I think the politics just remains behind the science, it's done some catching up during the year but it’s behind the science. I think we also… I've learned something very important over the last year, which is you can't take the consensus on this for granted, scientifically, you've got to go out and remake the case, and I think this is also a lesson for British scientists, that they think it's a settled matter, and I think it's… you know, in a sense that's, sort of, fine but they need to go out along with politicians - although, frankly, they're more convincing about the science - they need to go out and make that case and say, 'look, this is why we think it's settled', and that says maybe all of us have taken that a bit too much for granted.
PO: Well Ed Miliband, thank you very much for joining us, and – I'm guessing – fully clothed. Thank you very much indeed.
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