Labour and Tories flaunt green credentials in Copenhagen debate

July 17, 2009 at 1:53 pm Leave a comment



by Dan Billingham

Secretary of Energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband yesterday pledged that the government would “strain every sinew” to get an ambitious agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.

His lofty promises were praised from all sides in the Commons earlier this week, notably from the Shadow Cabinet, although a handful of anti-nuclear MPs and climate deniers made for a lively debate.

Alongside restating the UK’s ambitious carbon-cutting plan, Miliband allayed concerns that Britain and Western allies would dictate terms unacceptable to developing countries in the discussions.

Acknowledging the West’s “historic responsibility for emissions” Miliband asserted that “it is important that that system of governance commands respect from developing and developed countries. That means developing countries having a fair voice in the system of financial decision making”.

His shadow Greg Clark supported him by adding that “if we are to have the moral authority truly to lead in Copenhagen, it must be by example as well as by exhortation”.

“Twenty years ago, Margaret Thatcher stood before the Assembly of the United Nations and told the truth about the emerging scientific evidence on climate change,” he said.

“Twenty years later, the world’s Governments will meet at Copenhagen and either they will agree to the necessary action or they will not—but we owe it to the people of the world to tell them which it is.”

Clark’s reference to Thatcher was one of the few obvious indications of party loyalty as he and Miliband rivaled one another only in the amount of rhetoric deployed to extol their parties’ utmost commitment to fighting climate change.

The majority of speakers supported the two spokesmen although for Simon Hughes (Lib Dem), this “slightly cosy consensus” was a problem with government spending commitments declared to be “not very ambitious”.

Labour backbencher Paul Flynn then raised the tone as the debate neared its end, decrying that “it is extraordinary that both main parties have become bewitched by the pied piper of nuclear power” with government policy denounced as “truly, deeply mad… this source of power is dangerous and its proliferation could cost the world.”

Flynn questioned the economic logical behind the planned construction of new nuclear plants with reference to efficiency problems at plants and proposed new plants in France and Finland.

Conservative Peter Lilley then launched an entirely different line of attack, questioning the science behind climate change and arguing that “Politicians, having committed themselves to the idea of climate change, invent the reasons to justify it, and there is a tendency to demonise anybody who dissents from the consensus.

“I believe that the claims that the scientific evidence is overwhelming and that the debate is ended are incorrect and exaggerated, that the damages supposed to result from rises in the global average temperature are exaggerated and that the cost of mitigating that rise in temperature is almost certainly understated.”

Lilley was supported by party colleague Peter Bone who raised the thought-promoting examples of medieval Greenland being warm enough to support vineyards and NASA research apparently finding temperatures to have registered a long-term increase on Jupiter and Mars as well as Earth.

Labour’s Joan Walley left the government in little doubt that their negotiating position will be endorsed by the House by reflecting the seemingly more typical view in stating: “I do not accept that the issue is whether we should do something about global warming.

“We are on the way towards the most important international agreement at Copenhagen and we should give every ounce of support to the Secretary of State, who is taking such a leadership role.

“Parliament should back all the work that he is doing now and will do at the international negotiating table at Copenhagen.”


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