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UK calls for populist push in battle against climate change - 26 April 09  

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Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, warns today that he is "fearful" that the world may miss the opportunity to halt global warming and is calling for a Make Poverty History-style popular movement to push for a breakthrough at this year's Copenhagen summit.

He will travel to Washington this week for preliminary talks, amid concerns that Barack Obama's ability to back genuinely ambitious cuts in carbon emissions could be hindered by domestic political opposition.

"We do need to be pushed. Political change doesn't happen simply because leaders want it to happen, but because people make it happen," Miliband told the Observer. "I don't think it's just about protesting, although people are welcome to protest against me.

"We live in a world where this kind of campaigning can spread across the world - Susan Boyle appears on Britain's Got Talent and a week later 50 million people have watched it on YouTube."

Miliband, who worked for the Treasury during Make Poverty History, said climate change needed a similarly passionate figurehead. "I remember Bob Geldof ringing me up - I think he thought I was Ed Balls - and saying, 'We have got to cancel 100% of debt'. At the time, 100% seemed like utopia; it wasn't going to happen. But it partly moved - even if he got the wrong Ed - because of people like him."

Miliband hopes to build on last week's budget, which saw a U-turn on clean coal production and a surprise hike in petrol duty, to help to re-energise green campaigners ahead of the Copenhagen summit in December. He will shortly publish a climate change manifesto, revealing British negotiating positions, including an expectation that the west should bear the brunt of the pain of reducing carbon. "I am very fearful if we don't get the framework we need in December, because I think we will miss a historic opportunity," he added.

The manifesto will be backed by new climate change projections forecasting what could happen to the UK if global warming continues, amid concerns that too many Britons still do not perceive climate change as a threat to them.

"I would say that the debate on science is being won: we are moving in the right direction. The debate on 'will it happen to us?' is not a debate that is won. People think it's going to happen to someone else," Miliband said.

Asked why ministers did not move to force change, for example by restricting car use, he said that most people were not unwilling to go green, but needed help and information to do so.

However, he admitted that saving the planet would ultimately come at a price, adding: "Something which is quite technical, like putting a price on aviation emissions through the emissions trading scheme, means that airline prices will be higher than they would otherwise be. That's a necessity ...

"But we also have to make an argument that if you can shift to this greener Britain it would be better in many ways - a better quality of life. If it's only doom avoidance, I don't actually think you are going to bring people with you."

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Source: The Guardian