Where is the urgency?


November 15th, 2006

There’s a real buzz about the place now as talks reach crunch point. The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan arrived this morning to full red-carpet treatment. Our own Environment Minister David Miliband came into town yesterday afternoon. I had the opportunity to hear him speak about a process the British government has set up to address climate change up as part of its Presidency of the G8 last year called the Gleneagles Plan of Action. It’s fair to say that many people in the audience of the meeting were impressed by his vision and leadership. I was really pleased that he kicked of the meeting by highlighting the devastating impact of climate change on people in Kenya. The day before he’d travelled to the north of the country, where he met communities who are struggling to survive because of the severe droughts. I’ve been busy trying to make leaders think about climate change as a development issue for so long, so it’s really great to hear a British government minister so explicitly make the link.

But, of course, such positive language must translate to action otherwise they are just empty words. Mr Miliband must take a meaningful lead on the international stage in urging countries to commit to drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. My colleague met him in a closed meeting with other NGOs yesterday and she had the opportunity to present him with thousands of messages from Practical Action supporters, calling for urgent action while he’s here in Nairobi. The pic shows our international team holding up some of those messages (in a quick photo-shoot in between their sessions lobbying their own country representatives …).

Practical Action's international climate change team with some of the messages from Practical Action supporters to UK Environment Secretary David Milliband (click for larger version)

Unfortunately, in terms of the big picture the signals are still worrying. At the minute, what’s on the table for an international agreement when Kyoto expires in 2012 is staggeringly weak. It contains no plan to agree a global target and no adequate timetable to reach agreement on cuts. Where is the urgency? Why don’t the Ministers here seem to see what is so glaringly necessary?

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