The beginning of the end?

Ed Miliband, your government’s climate change top bod, couldn’t resist the Churchill allusion. Asked by the chair of tonight’s huge public meeting for an inspirational summing up about Copenhagen (which happens to be the subject of a pretty cool cartoon by Marc Roberts), he reached for the “it’s not the end, it’s not even the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning” line. And, through more gritted teeth (note to subs: do flies have teeth?) MCFly says he might be right…

The meeting took place at GMEx (or “Mancheste Central” for anyone not up with the very latest rebrand). It was confirmed less than two weeks ago, so a turnout of 5 to 600 or so (the biggest ever event on climate change in Manchester?) is a pretty good effort.
After useful “fluffing” by the ubiquitous Phil Korbel, we had the main event. Joining Ed “I like MCFly” Miliband were Mike Childs (campaigns lead for Friends of the Earth), Len Wardle of Co-op and Richard Leese, Council Leader and frequent target of MCFly snarks and questions. It was chaired by John Harris of the Guardian, who has been Ed’s shadow of late.

Of especial interest to MCFly readers will be Richard Leese’s launch of the “Manchester. A Certain Future” action plan. He started by telling his Labour Party colleague Ed “don’t come back without a deal”.
He then said what he’s said before, but bears repeating: The writing of the Action Plan (which is for the City, not just the Council) was a collective effort. It’s been endorsed by the City Council, and the hope is by a lot more organisations and bodies in the coming year. (Most of the Council’s greenatariat were in the audience) Behaviour change is vital, above and beyond the ambitious 41% target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. But There’ll be a separate blog post about this by MCFly’s other editor, so, onwards to the “main event” (not to disparage the FOE and Co-op, who will be dealt with in a later blog post!).

Miliband was usefully brief, as usual. He looked at why the Copenhagen deal was needed. The science was indeed urgent (he’d been got to by Professor Kevin Anderson before the meeting), but also the world focussed in a way it had never been before. This he credited to the campaigners in the global movement. His fear had been that Copenhagen would pass without notice, but not any more. We were, he said, not where we need to be, and may not be by the end of the conference, but we would be closer.
He agreed with Mike Childs on the need for “maximum ambition” and laid out the government’s 34% by 2020, 40% as part of a high ambition deal (NB this is not about embedded carbon; the UK has exported its emissions, as Dieter Helm makes clear in his Tanner lecture)
He puffed Gordon Brown as the guy who first put numbers on adaptation funding.
He emphasised that Copenhagen was not the end, or even the beginning of the end, and that what we’ve learned from other movements is the need to carry on. We need to “realise it’s a long hard road and the people have to keep on it” (Chomsky, btw, says ditto. In the West people ask him what to do, expecting a magic bullet. In the rest of the world, they tell him all the things they’re doing.)

The question and answer session was, even to this hardened activist, a little drawn out, and predictably threw up more heat than light. Not the chair’s fault, or the panellists (mostly), but perhaps a lack of imagination in the questions, many of which could have been dealt with via a google search or visit to various government websites. That said, questions on engagement are always worth asking…

To this Q and A MCFly will return- our OCD was such that we took copious notes, but it’s late and some of us have day jobs to go to, so time to triage.. Suffice to say Ed and Richard, politicians both, were scrupulous in answering all questions put to them (so people like us can’t accuse ’em of ducking!) Leese was careful to say -in response to a pre-meeting snark- that there will be lots of opportunities for dialogue and discussion in the coming years. Can’t wait…

Props to:
Manchester Friends of the Earth and also the Department of Energy and Climate Change for putting it on in short time frame.
Ed Miliband for not talking out the clock and calling it like he sees it, and doing less ducking and weaving than you’d expect
More than half a thousand or so Mancunians for coming out and sitting still for a loooong meeting of middle-aged middle-class white men (this is not how a social movement should look, says one middle-aged middle-class white male)

Maybe next time we could have the chair encourage people to talk to the person behind them for a bit (it works, even in a tiered lecture theatre) to create some weak ties. Maybe even name badges? It all helps with the coercive mingling that should be a sine qua non of these events, and might even move things towards the elusive “two thumbs up” rating. Much else to say, some of it worth reading, but a Climate Slamdown day summary has yet to be written, and proof-read…

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About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
This entry was posted in Climate Change Action Plan, Ed Miliband, nauseating sycophancy, Sir Richard Leese. Bookmark the permalink.

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