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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 November 2006, 11:55 GMT
Young pretender?
On Sunday 05 November, Andrew Marr interviewed David Miliband MP, Environment Secretary

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

David Miliband MP
David Miliband MP, Environment Secretary

ANDREW MARR: We are now joined by the Environment Secretary, David Milliband. There was an amazing march yesterday on the environment issue in London, David Milliband.

You've just published this huge Stern Report. First thing is whether the environment has actually changed the way that government thinks about its agenda has done more than simply change your job but has changed the whole set-up?

DAVID MILLIBAND: Well I think there has been a profound change, really over the last year, because climate change has gone from being an issue for the Environment Secretary to being an economic issue, an energy issue, a security issue that is dealt with at Prime Ministerial, Foreign Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer level. And I think that is significant.

The Stern Report was published last Monday I think takes away the last refuge of the climate change deniers. Because the argument on the science has really been settled now, and so those who wanted to deny this agenda I think the idea would cost just too much to deal with it.

And what Stern showed, I think with convincing detail, was that if you really fear costs then you've got to deal with it because the costs of inaction are really dire compared to the costs of doing something about it.

ANDREW MARR: Since the Stern Report came out there's been a kind of pretty widespread popular reaction which is these people simply want to tax the rest of more, this is their latest excuse for taxing, it's going to be ever steeper taxes.

DAVID MILLIBAND: Well I think that's just been the excuse that's been put forward on one particular side of the political spectrum. The government's record on this is very clear.

Think about the climate change levy which is a tax, it was brought in in 1998, it's done more to reduce carbon emissions than anything else. And what happened? The climate change levy was brought in but employers' national insurance contributions were cut to help get more people into work.

ANDREW MARR: So are you implying that if there are new green taxes on cars, on flights, whatever it might be, there will be compensating tax cuts for some people?

DAVID MILLIBAND: Well the government and the Treasury in particular set out this very clearly in 2002, they said that any green taxes have to sit alongside the government's overall approach to taxation and expenditure.

That means looking at fairness, at the impact on businesses, and obviously critically, the stability and growth of the economy.

And I am confident that it's right to set tax policy budget to budget rather than on... What I would say is that the government's commitment to fairness in the tax system sits absolutely squarely and the horror stories that have been painted for low and middle income Britain, I think, are scare stories.

ANDREW MARR: So, although you're not the Chancellor obviously you can give a commitment that when green taxes arrive, as more and more of them will, that will not be an excuse simply to raise the overall tax level in this country?

DAVID MILLIBAND: The thing to remember of course is that green taxes are not intended to raise money, they're actually intended to change people's behaviour. If you think about the congestion charge in London it will be very odd to say that a measure of its success is how much money it raises.

Because of course its purpose is to change driving habits and invest the proceeds into public transport. So, what I would say to you is that at every stage we want to make sure that the environmental agenda is built into an economic and social agenda that the government is taking forward.

ANDREW MARR: Let's take one example. Let's take aircraft. 2003, big report on the future of Britain's airports which suggested that the number of flights in this country was going to triple by 2030. Now that is the kind of thing that you have to stop stone-cold dead.

DAVID MILLIBAND: Well no, I think that there's another way to look at this. We either have to fly less, which is the example you give, to protect the environment.

Or, if we're going to fly more we've got to do much less of something else. Because what counts in the end is not whether emissions come from cars or homes or aeroplanes - what counts is that our carbon emissions are reduced.

ANDREW MARR: So what else do we do much less of us to allow us to fly three times more, I mean, crowding our skies with the greatest source of increased carbon emissions at the moment?

DAVID MILLIBAND: Well at the moment aviation is about 4% or 5% of the total.

ANDREW MARR: Yes, but you know it's going like that...

DAVID MILLIBAND: About 4% or 5% of the total. The big game for households and for the environment comes from home energy efficiency. It's about 27% of total emissions come from directly from the household.

We all know that energy bills have gone up, the oil price is up as well. Home energy efficiency offers the easiest gains and the quickest way of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

That's good for household bills, it actually cuts your bills and it's good for the environment as well. So there are big gains across the board. Aviation has to play its part, partly through technological changes. But I think that you've got to see it in the round.

ANDREW MARR: But if you're not going for, you know, the one pound flight to the Czech Republic or whatever it might be. If you're not going for that market and you're suggesting that that can stay as it is, you're sending a very strange message.

DAVID MILLIBAND: Well we've been very clear about this, and I think that the government's policy has actually gathered cross party support which is that we should see aviation as a high emitting sector.


DAVID MILLIBAND: We certainly shouldn't ignore it. We should see it on a European level and it should become part of the overall European emissions reduction scheme which is operating at the moment and covers nearly half of the economy, all those heavy emitting industries notably in the energy production sector. We should make sure that aviation is part of that as soon as possible.

Because at the moment it's not covered at all and I think we've got to make the choice clear. Either we fly less or, if we're going to fly more we've got to do much less of something else. And that's what the European scheme I'm talking about does.

ANDREW MARR: For everyone watching, wondering how am I going to have to change my life in concrete practical terms, give me some examples of the kind of things that are either going to be taxed so heavily we stop doing them, or we're going to be told to stop doing?

DAVID MILLIBAND: Obviously the important, the first important message for viewers is that government and business have to play their role as well. We've got to get government's house in order, that's why we've said government, the whole of the government activity should be carbon neutral by 2012.

Businesses have got to play their part. But then I think there are some pretty simple household things, it seems absurd to say if you change a lightbulb you can save the planet.

But actually, if a million people changed three lightbulbs to energy-efficient lightbulbs that's the equivalent of taking hundreds of thousands of cars off the road. We're investing as a government 300 million a year in a scheme to introduce loft insulation and cavity wall insulation.

That is the equivalent of taking hundreds of thousands of cars off the road. Recycling, another good example, the amount of recycling we do has gone up four times, four-fold over the last eight or nine years.

ANDREW MARR: But we're still at the bottom of the European....

DAVID MILLIBAND: We're still low in the European league. It's gone up four-fold. The amount of recycling we do is the equivalent of three and a half million cars' emissions.

So there are practical things to deal with. Energy efficiency to do with lighting, to do with the recycling that I think can make a practical difference. And I believe that the British people will do them if they're convinced that government is bearing its share of the burden and if business is playing its part too.

ANDREW MARR: All right, that was very clear. Just before we go, your thoughts on Saddam news this morning?

DAVID MILLIBAND: Well obviously it shows that there is a legal process that's been set up in Iraq. That's as was said earlier, different from most of the headlines we get. And it's a reminder of one reason why it was important to take the action in the first place.

ANDREW MARR: Any uneasiness about him being executed?

DAVID MILLIBAND: Well I don't think, as you know the government in this country we don't believe the death penalty is the right way forward but Iraq is a country with its own constitution, 11 million people voted for that constitution. I think we have to let democracy take its course.

ANDREW MARR: All right, David Milliband, thank you very much indeed for joining us.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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