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The Environment Minister in the United Kingdom at time of writing (2008) is Hilary Benn.
Benn stresses need for climate deal
As the United Nations climate change summit drew to a close in Bali, environment secretary Hilary Benn stressed the need to secure a deal.
Ministers were on Friday discussing an agreement on reducing global emissions to replace the current Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
The EU wants binding emissions targets of 25 to 40 per cent by 2020, but the US has signaled a preference for voluntary reductions.
And Benn said: "The hard bargaining has begun. If the negotiation is to be successful, we need two things: we have to accept the science and we have to clear about what every country will contribute."
"There's real desire to get an agreement. The world will not forgive us if we don't."
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that "nobody is under any illusions about the importance of the task that we've got".
"And the need to secure a deal which would give us, for the very first time, all the countries of the world committing themselves to a negotiating process to end in 2009, to get a new agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
"[This is] because the science is very, very clear and what we are doing currently is way short of what is needed to prevent dangerous climate change."
"As a world we are consuming the earth's resources as if we had another two spare planets tucked away in the cupboard. We don't, we just have the one," Benn added.
"Everyone's got to play their part - governments, business and each of us as individuals."
The US has been condemned by environmental groups for failing to accept firm cuts.
Friends of the Earth executive director Tony Juniper said: "The US are behaving like first class passengers on a jumbo jet who believe an emergency in economy class does not affect them. "But if we go down, we go down together and the US needs to realise that very quickly."
Constituency: Leeds Central
Date of birth: 26 November 1953
Office address: Department for International Development,
1 Palace Street, London, SW1E 5HE
Office phone: 020 7219 5770
Office fax: 020 7219 2639
Office e-mail: email@example.com
Constituency address: 2 Blenheim Terrace, Leeds, LS2 9JG
Hilary is MP for Leeds Central and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, before which he served as International Development Secretary. The Labour Party has always been in Hilary’s life.
He was President of Ealing Action Constituency Labour Party from 1979 to 1982. Elected to Ealing Borough Council in 1979 at the age of 25, he became Chair of the Education Committee in 1986. He served as Deputy Leader of the Labour Group for nine years from 1985-1994, and was Deputy Leader of the Council from 1986-1990. In 1988 he was elected Chair of the Association of London Authorities Education Committee. He was also a member of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities Education Committee and the Labour Party’s Education Forum.
In 1980, while a Research Officer with the Association of Scientific, Technical and Management Staffs, Hilary was seconded to the Labour Party to act as Joint Secretary to the finance panel of the Labour Party Commission of Inquiry.
In 1982, at the age of 29, he was selected as Labour prospective parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Ealing North, which he contested in the 1983 and 1987 General Elections.
In 1993, he was appointed as Head of Research at Manufacturing, Science, Finance - Britain’s fifth largest trade union - and in 1996 was promoted to the post of Head of Policy and Communications. He represented MSF on the Labour Party’s National Policy Forum, was an elected member of the Party’s Environment Policy Commission and a member of the Labour Party into Power Taskforce on party democracy. He also gave evidence to the Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life.
From 1994 to 1999, he was Chair of the Management Committee of Unions 21 - the trade union think tank.
Following Labour’s 1997 General Election victory, he was appointed as special adviser to the Rt Hon David Blunkett MP, then Secretary of State for Education and Employment. His responsibilities included lifelong learning, and he was closely involved in the drafting of the Learning Age green paper and the Learning to Succeed White Paper. He was also instrumental in setting up the Union Learning Fund.
In June 1999, he was elected as Member of Parliament for Leeds Central. From 1999-2001 he was a member of the Environment, Transport and the Regions Select Committee and Vice-Chair of the Backbench Education Committee of Labour MPs. In June 2001, he was appointed as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development. Between May 2002 and May 2003, he was Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Community and Custodial provision at the Home Office.
In May 2003 he was appointed as Minister of State for International Development and in October that year was made Secretary of State for International Development.
Hilary was appointed to DEFRA as Secretary of State in 2007, when Gordon Brown became Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party.
When not working, Hilary enjoys gardening and watching sport. He is married and has four children.
Speech to SERA: The Environmental Revolution: How green politics can renew Labour
March 20th, 2007
It’s now a week since we published the Climate Change Bill.
I don’t know how many of you followed all the newspaper coverage. But just in case you missed it:
- The Mirror printed a picture of Gordon Brown’s head superimposed on the Incredible Hulk’s body, squashing
“leprechaun Dave” on the environment;
Now that’s what I call a good day for a Labour government. And more importantly, it shows just how serious, and how global, environmental politics has become.
You have always known that to be truly Labour you must also be green.
So let me say this straight away: thank you for your hard work on environmental issues, day in day out. Because without your efforts, it’s hard to imagine us having got this far.
But what we did last week should be just the start.
Now, I know a lot of people in the Labour movement are concerned by David Cameron’s early success in this area.
We look at opinion polls which say that one in five Britons now think the environment is one of the most important challenges facing the country - and that it will more important for how people vote at the next election than the economy.
And we wonder how Labour should respond.
My argument today is that Labour will win on the environment, because we are the only party that can be credible on the environment.
So today I want to talk about what we do next.
So let me start by saying why Labour politics must be environmental politics.
Climate change. That’s one utterly compelling reason among many others. It’s now obvious to all of us, to anyone who believes in science or evidence that climate change is happening, that it’s serious, and that it’s our responsibility.
A lot has been said about this over the past few weeks and months, so I won’t repeat what the science tells us. I’ll just say I believe it, as I’m sure you do. I don’t agree with John Redwood, who heads the Tories’ tax commission, who calls the science a “swindle”.
I had first hand experience of this a few weeks ago.
I was visiting a village in Malawi, when some local women offered to take me to the water pump. On the way back, I carried a half-full bucket of water. By the end of the fifteen minute journey, my neck was aching. These women do that journey every single day, five times a day.
know that we can do something about it. And that we have to act now.
So this is fundamentally about justice. And that’s why it must be at the heart of our politics.
And as the country with a Labour government that believes in progress and the fight for a better world, and in leading by example, we have a moral obligation to lead the world in solving this problem.
But that’s not the only reason we must put the environment at the heart of Labour politics. It’s also a deeply practical thing to do.
If Britain and the developed world needed less oil, we would be less dependent on the Middle East. We would be more secure. And the benefits for peace in the world are obvious.
And let’s be clear about this too: the environment is not just about climate change.
If Britain’s skies were less polluted, there would be less respiratory disease. Our towns would be cleaner and nicer places to live in. And we could spend more money in the NHS on treating other diseases.
Or if Britain recycled more, we would need less space for landfill, and would have more space for social housing.
So what will the environmental revolution we need look like?
In 1997, we stood on a manifesto that said that social justice and economic growth go hand in hand; that you cannot have one without the other.
That’s why we must now show how far we have moved on since then: that Labour has a clear vision for Britain in the decade beyond 2007.
1997, we regulated to protect labour standards through the minimum
wage and the social chapter. Now we must regulate to protect the
environment, from zero carbon homes to electricity generation to
inefficient appliances and light bulbs.
That’s why Labour must put the environment at the heart of our renewal. And to do that we need environmental activists to turn to Labour to help shape what we say and be part of what we do.
Too often, environment campaigners have been on the sidelines of our debates. Too often, green ideas have failed to make it into the political mainstream. Just as Labour had to renew itself before 1997, we can now see that the green movement must renew itself for 2007.
I agree with David Miliband that the fundamental problem has been that the green movement has been seen, rightly or wrongly, as being anti-growth. This gave the movement deep but narrow appeal. It is the “deep green” trap that spells political isolation.
The idea that growth is bad is not only politically unpalatable, it is also immoral because it hurts the world’s poor most. In my three and half years as Development Secretary I have seen first hand how economic growth is the surest way to lift people out of poverty, to provide them with jobs, with healthcare and with the chance to go to school. There is simply no argument about this.
After all, it’s how we did it as a country.
And if we are to convince the developing world, particularly China and India, to take the environment seriously, we need to show how economic growth is compatible with sustainability.
But there are other, deeper reasons too.
I think that a credible response to the environmental challenge we face depends on four things: internationalism, intervention to correct market failures, a belief in the enabling state and a commitment to fairness.
Without these four principles, it will be simply impossible to respond to climate change and other environmental problems. All four are deeply Labour values.
And that’s why the importance of the environment at the next election will turn out to be one of our strongest advantages.
Climate change is a global problem that needs a global solution. That’s why we put it at the heart of our presidency of the G8. That’s why we pushed for Europe to adopt a demanding cut in emissions by 2020 over 1990 – agreed a couple of weeks ago.
long term global goal on carbon emissions;
It’s not a case of not knowing what we need to do. It’s a case of political will.
We’re making progress on most of these, but there is much more to do.
We need to persuade our friends in the largest emitter in the world to be more serious about climate change. And if they need to talk in terms of energy security to do this, then that’s fine with me. And the same for other countries. That’s why our international strategy on climate change takes each county at face value.
We also need to persuade the international institutions to change. We need the World Bank to increase its investment in clean energy and adaptation. Because this is how we will get the world to invest more in ways to generate electricity that don’t harm the environment – and so I can tell you today that I will press for a demanding new target for the World Bank to increase its investment in renewables when I attend the spring meetings next month.
what we want to see is results. And to get results, we need
multilateralism. And to be more multilateral you have to be
pro-Europe, pro- the biggest existing trading scheme in the world.
Climate change, as Nick Stern said, is the world’s largest market failure.
Take the Climate Change Bill. I know there is still some debate over whether the 60 per cent target is right. I think it is, but I’d like to remind everyone that secondary legislation allows us to make the target more demanding in the light of further scientific evidence and progress, and to extend emissions trading to the airline sector.
But let’s remember that as well as proposing enabling powers to allow regulation, we’re following the bill up with an energy bill, a planning bill and a marine bill, all of which will have contain practical measures.
That’s not credible politics.
Now I’m not against markets. I’m in favour of them. I just think they need help to work effectively. A carbon market will only generate a high carbon price if we set the right limits. Road user charging will only work if we set the tariffs in the right way.
And in the meantime, we need more effective green regulation.
But we can go further.
The energy bill should include incentives to encourage micro-generation to encourage far more households to produce energy as well as consume it. And we need to make a major new investment in clean coal and renewables. We have huge further potential for developing wind power and tidal power – after all Britain is an Island.
And I also think we need Nuclear Power if we are to achieve our ambition of being a low carbon economy and if we are going to have diverse sources of energy supply.
We also need to do more to improve public transport. The Transport Bill will be crucial on this. We need to give councils more power to determine bus routes so people have a real alternative to using their cars, because at the moment bus services are too patchy.
And we should develop proposals that completely change the nature of the domestic energy market. Instead of simply selling power, energy companies should become energy efficiency companies, selling heated homes, internalising the cost of improved energy efficiency. We need to make it more profitable for companies to insulate their customers’ houses than to leave them without insulation.
Labour councils up and down the country are leading innovation all the time. I recently gave a speech on the environment to the NLGN, and was struck by what many local councillors told me about the action they’re taking in neighbourhoods around the country.
Nottingham council, for example, has led the way by persuading more than 100 other local authorities to adopt the Nottingham Declaration on Climate Change – and commit to change policy to reduce emissions. It has established a £1 million “invest to save” fund for energy efficiency schemes in its own buildings. And its work with local developers is reducing emissions in other ways. In Millennium Green in Collingham, for example, all new houses are more energy efficient – producing 70% less CO2 due to high insulation, argon filled low E windows and ventilation with heat recovery.
And talking about local communities, we also need individuals to act.
I think this is one of the most fundamental differences between the Tories and the Lib Dems on one side and Labour on the other. Because we believe in an enabling state that provides a helping hand. That’s what the New Deal, Sure Start, JobCentre Plus, Flexible Working Rights and a thousand other Labour reforms are about.
Whereas the Lib Dems are split down the middle on what they believe. And the Tories believe in “social responsibility” – i.e. leaving people to fend for themselves – and a spending rule that means £22 billion less for public services.
It’s incredibly important that we get this right. Because 44 per cent of UK emissions are down to how we behave as individuals, and government can’t do it on its own.
In the long term, I think David Miliband’s proposal for individual carbon budgets is right. This should be in our next manifesto. Another example of where SERA has led the way – after all, you were talking about Domestic Tradeable Quotas four years ago.
But in the short term, we need to help people change their behaviour in other ways.
At DFID, we recently held a climate change week for all civil servants, to help them understand what climate change means for them, and how we can all make a difference, in our private lives and in the work we do.
And I’m trying to do my bit. The Department for International Development now offsets all my business travel - and I do rather a lot of it! I have changed my ministerial car for a duel-fuel Toyota Prius.
But I want to make a difference personally too. As a human being, not just as a Minister. I’ve started offsetting my personal flights. And I recently took a screwdriver and turned down the thermostat on the hot water heater at home by 2 degrees. We recycle. I travel to and from my constituency by train.
It’s a very modest start. I need to do more. We all do. But not everyone has the money to make big changes. Condensing boilers are more expensive for example. And this is where I think Labour politics has the most to offer environmental politics.
Because environmental politics has to be fair politics.
The really galling thing about Cameron’s air taxes is that they would do little to cut emissions but they would to a lot to take money from the poor.
And what has been so refreshing about the media coverage this week is that the media won’t let him get away with this kind of posturing any more.
- That’s why personal carbon trading is such a good idea. An equal entitlement that would allow the poor who use less carbon to sell to the rich who use more.
So it’s clear that Labour politics must be green politics. And it’s clear that green politics must be Labour politics.
I think this is key to renewing our party, winning a fourth term and helping us build a better Britain together.
We are the only party that can be credible on the environment. And I think there’s a real appetite out there for a more straightforward kind of politics that tells it like it is.
And Cameron is beginning to feel the brunt of this changing public mood. People want substance and policy. They want honesty.
The Times editorial said that the Tories “ought to show leadership on rethinking these half-thought ideas” about taxing air travel. The Telegraph said that surely the “Tories can do better than this”.
Here’s what Shadow Environment Secretary Peter Ainsworth said recently on BBC Breakfast about their policy development: “We don’t need to have a policy now … It’s over three years until the general election! It doesn’t matter until then does it?”
If you ask me, it does matter.
And this is a huge opportunity for Labour.
We need to open up the party and make membership more attractive. Historically we have recruited a lot of people, only for them to drift away from the party. We all joined the party to change the world and not to change the minutes of the last meeting.
We need to host debates on local issues in venues away from constituency party meeting rooms and offices. We need to be talking about the things that the people we hope to represent are talking about. We need to listen more.
We need to be more active in campaigning and actually getting things done in the community. And that’s something the green movement has always been good at.
And for the environment movement, joining forces with Labour offers an similar opportunity.
Because the public mood has changed. Climate change has come centre stage. And for all those who care about environmental issues more broadly, now is the time to make them part of the new political landscape we have in front of us.
Let’s use this opportunity to push for change on recycling, on waste, on water, on cleaner communities, on transport, on safe streets for children, on sustainable business and corporate social responsibility.
And I’m here to listen to your ideas about all of these issues. So tell me what you’d like to change and I’ll try and help.
It’s a once in a generation opportunity for all of us.
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