Hilary Benn: successful economies are going to be low carbon

The rather dapper, incredibly enthusiastic Benn has been in the job for almost 11 months. Despite flying in from the US that morning (after spending some time “on the Hill” discussing climate change), he was in very high spirits when he spoke to me and a few of the other editors at Caspian Publishing.

Benn said the politics of climate change are evolving – here and in the US. While our friends across the pond have lagged behind the rest of the world when it comes to the climate change issue, Benn said the US is now taking the matter very seriously. He’s certain the new president (whether it’s McCain, Clinton or Obama) will bring with them a new environmental policy for the country.

Benn also touched on the need to help emerging economies cut emissions: “We’re all in this together… We all have a problem.” He noted that technology is going to play a crucial role in bringing countries such as China and India to the position of the developed world.

Interestingly, Benn said the greatest risk in all of this is “falling prey to despair”.

“There is a risk people will become transfixed in the headlights of the enormity of what we’re facing,” he said. But, with unfailing optimism, added: “What may seem impossible today, may be possible tomorrow.”

Benn also talked about the Climate Change Bill (he described it as “pretty radical”) and said similar legislation is unlikely in the near future although he does imagine more policies will be needed to achieve the targets being set and to build on what is currently in place.

Benn is convinced that in the future “successful economies are going to be low carbon”. While the cost of being green is a touchy subject for some, Benn doesn’t think it should be an issue: “There’s going to be a temptation in these circumstances for some people to say ‘the economy has to come first and the environment is going to have to wait for a bit’… I think that would be a profound mistake."

He pointed to the cost of not acting now, as demonstrated in the Stern Report. “There’s a pretty powerful argument for getting on with it,” Benn argued.

“If you stop and contemplate what the consequence of runaway climate change would be, the economic impact would be devastating.”

Benn also said there’s a real opportunity for those who take the lead on this issue.

Before shuffling us out of his office, the Environment Secretary concluded with this statement: “Climate change expresses human interdependence. We can’t opt out of this. There are going to be 9 billion of us in 50 years time and there’s 6.2 billion of us already so we have to do it.”Related articlesGreen FDs make a differenceCarbon’s coming to get you

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