The Bigger Picture: The City in the Global Village


David Miliband's Speech to the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, 22-1-07

Below is the full text of the speech given by David Miliband to the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit on 22nd January 2007, as press released by his Department. It's worth reproducing in full because it is a stark account of the dangers and challenges that climate change presents to the world.

Back at Christmas the city council was pleased to boast that the city's household waste recycling rate had grown from 15% to 26%. Well done, but what a long way there is still to go - and time is short. Read Milliband's speech.

Apart from the dire consequences for India threatened by climate change, two things are worth noting.

One, the faith that Mr Milliband places in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology. This is the method of making coal burning carbon neutral by extracting the CO2 produced (capturing) and pumping it into voids in the earth (storage), usually into the voids left by the extraction of oil and natural gas. Given the reliance of the emerging economic giants of India and China on coal for their energy needs to the extent that a new coal-fired power station is opened just about every week in one or other of these countries, we had better hope that CCS works and that suitable voids are there to fill.

In 2006 China produced 2.33 billion tons of coal, projected to rise to 2.6 billion tons by 2010. By comparison UK coal consumption is 64 million tons per year.

Two, in the text of his speech as press released Mr Milliband states: "Homes built in the UK today are 40 per cent more efficient that those built in 2001, and we have recently committed to ensuring all homes are 'zero carbon' by 2016" (my emphasis). Is that a mistake, a deliberate mistake, or just a shoddy piece of drafting and/or proof reading by a civil servant?

Fantastic though it would be if that were indeed the commmitment recently given by our government, the truth is much less ambitious, even if the building industry doesn't think so. The commitment was actually given by Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and is that all NEW homes will be zero carbon by 2016.

I assume Mr Miliband spotted the mistake before he read his speech. Let's hope he didn't mislead his audience.


The Speech

I am delighted to be able to address the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit. This summit brings together a remarkable collection of people from across nations, and from across different parts of society, from business and NGOs to Government and the public sector.

Across the world, questions of energy security, economic security and climate security are coming together. In the past, the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development pulled in different directions, today, they increasingly have common and complimentary solutions. That is the significance of today's Sustainable Development Summit.

My argument today is this

* The scientific debate about climate change is over. Climate change is happening, it is man-made and it will have disastrous efforts for all of us. India will face particularly acute consequence from climate change and therefore has a particularly strong interest in securing a solution.

* In the past year, the economic arguments have changed dramatically, and I hope decisively. The Stern Report shows that globally, it will cost far more to deal with the problem, than invest in the solution. It is in our financial self-interest to tackle the problem, not just our moral duty.

* The practical solutions and technologies exist to avoid climate change from wind, wave and solar power to Carbon Capture and Storage. India has a unique opportunity to be a leapfrog economy that moves straight to low-carbon development.

* This year's challenge is to make progress on the politics and the policy. Climate change is a global problem and will require a global agreement. In 2007, we must begin to agree the building blocks of an international framework that delivers a fair balance of responsibility between industrialised and industrialising countries.

Let me begin by setting out the problem. The basic facts are these: Atmospheric CO 2 is now around 40% higher than before the industrial revolution.

This is resulting in a rise in temperature of 0.7 degrees in the last century, almost certainly unprecedented in human civilisation. If it carries on unchecked, the effects will be on people not just nature; immediate as well as long term.

Climate change will affect every country. But the impact will be greater in India, South-East Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

The joint India-UK project on climate change highlighted some of the impacts on India:

Water resources are already under strain here. India has 16 per cent of global population but only 4 per cent of global water resources. Across India the hydrological cycle is predicted to become more intense, both with higher annual average rainfall as well as longer periods of drought. Agriculture constitutes the single largest component of India's economy, nearly 27% of the GDP. A temperature increase of 2C is predicted to result in a 10-16% reduction in rice yields, while a 4C rise led to a 21-30% reduction.

India has a low-lying coastline. India will be one of the countries most vulnerable to sea level rise. Coastal infrastructure, tourist activity, inshore explorations are at risk. Large scale emigration from coastal zones is expected due to submergence of coastal-lines after sea levels have risen. This will create large numbers of environmental refugees especially from low-lying delta regions.

Other impacts include the changes to the makeup of India's forests, in which 200,000 villages are located in or near; higher rates of certain diseases, such as Malaria, and damage to railways and infrastructure from higher temperatures, increased rainfall and flooding and sea-level rises. In short, no part of life in India will remain unaffected. The effects will be economic and social, not just environmental.