Prospect talks to the energy and climate change secretary ahead of the Copenhagen summitby Oliver Morton / October 21, 2009 / Leave a comment
Prospect There’s a big sign downstairs in your office giving us the countdown to Copenhagen. But is there a risk of making one meeting too central to climate policy when it’s really a generational problem?
Ed Miliband I think setting a deadline has concentrated minds. In September, the Chinese president came to the UN and essentially changed his domestic policy; Japan has announced 25 per cent emissions reduction by 2020 and India is taking big new steps on solar. It’s not just another summit because you’ve got Obama in his first year in office in the US, and developing countries starting to change their position. It’s an important window of opportunity. Yes, there are risks in building it up too much, and you learn from Gleneagles and elsewhere that if we get a deal in Copenhagen, we must ensure it’s implemented.
P What does a successful deal look like?
EM It has significant developed country reductions by 2020—it could be 2025, but concentrated at 2020. It has developing country actions to prevent unrestrained growth in emissions, not just cutting them.
P How would you distinguish an action from a pledge or target?
EM One thing that has bedevilled these negotiations in the past, apart from mistrust, is that Kyoto didn’t involve everyone. If we can say that emissions for the first time in the history of the modern world are going to fall not rise, that will be a big success. The key to preventing dangerous climate change is stopping the temperature rising more than 2°C. To do that you must involve developed and developing countries, but how do you make that happen without asking poor countries to cut their emissions? The Australians have suggested that developing countries put forward “actions”—such as China’s 15 per cent renewable energy target, Brazil’s commitments on deforestation and so on.
P And what if actions don’t happen?
EM Clearly you need a system of monitoring, reporting and verification. I don’t have an easy answer on the question of sanctions, but the world has never agreed a set of commitments that cut overall emissions. The more people can write commitments into their domestic legislation, the better.
P How important is it that the US comes with domestic legislation sorted out?
EM What matters most is that America comes with a number and says, “Here’s what we are going to put forward.” We can’t have…