Ed Miliband, UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change has congratulated the Catholic aid agency CAFOD on its new campaign to raise awareness and mobilise pressure on the issue of climate change.
Speaking at the 12 March 2009 launch at Westminster Cathedral Hall in London, he said 2009 was a crucial year for action in the lead-up to December's meeting of world leaders at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, where a new global deal is to be worked out.
"Britain is ahead of the climate change debate compared to other countries" Miliband said "and a greener lifestyle will not only contribute towards saving our world, it is a better quality of life as well".
However, he was challenged by members of the audience of several hundred to explain how the British government was going to "walk the talk" whilst supporting a new runway at Heathrow, a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth and £70 billion of expenditure on the renewal of Britain's Trident nuclear system.
One person suggested that Britain's arms spending should be transferred to investment in renewable energy. Ed Mlliband did not respond to specifics but said the government was committed to reducing greenhouse emissions from aviation, and had already reduced defence spending significantly. Responding to concern over government plans to expand nuclear energy, he said that "given the urgency of climate change we cannot rule out a low carbon fuel".
Members of the audience indicated disagreement as Milliband reported feeling reassured by scientists that safe storage of nuclear waste can be provided by deep geological repository.
CAFOD wants the UK government to push for the Copenhagen conference to commit industrialised countries to at least 30-40 per cent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, based on 1990 levels.
It also wants the UK to take a lead in establishing a fair and binding agreement recognising the right of people in developing countries to sustainable development and ensures sufficient funding and technical support to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.
CAFOD supporters were asked to adopt more "carbon-friendly lifestyles" and cut their personal greenhouse gas emissions by reviewing their purchases, energy use and transport. "This will also give a signal to the government that we are willing to support tough measures to cut emissions" said CAFOD Director Chris Bain.
Bain announced that CAFOD has undertaken an ecological audit, cut its paper use by 20 per cent and recently won an award for the number of staff who walk or cycle to work. CAFOD is one of more than 170 international Catholic groups who called for urgent action on climate change in December 2008.
CAFOD was established in 1962,when the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales officially set up the agency - then known as the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, but today as the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development.
More information: http://www.cafod.org.uk/