6 Mar 2007
David Milliband Calls for Powerdown (I think…).
**David Milliband**, the UK Environment Minister, is developing a track record for announcing big ideas without quite (apparently) thinking them through. A year or so ago he gave a speech in which he used the term “One Planet Agriculture” without seemingly really thinking through the implications of this far-reaching term. A few weeks later he gave an interview where he stated that organic food was not proven to be more nutritious or healthy, but that it was just a “lifestyle choice”, leaving many of us wondering what then exactly a One Planet Agriculture might look like if it isn’t at least organic. This was what prompted the Soil Association to name their conference One Planet Agriculture, in an attempt to reclaim the term and give it some substance. Now Milliband is back, and this time appears to be calling for a national Energy Descent Plan as a response to peak oil.
Buried in an article on the front page of the Guardian about a new report on how the Government is set to fail to meet it own CO2 targets (no surprise there then) is the following;
>(The report) is released on the day the environment minister, David Miliband, delivers a speech on the UK’s transition to a “post-oil economy”. He will tell an audience at the University of Cambridge: “Al Gore says climate change is a planetary emergency. It is. But it is more than that. It is a humanitarian emergency – a threat to the security and survival of people, not just nature. **The time is right to look at what it would mean for the UK over the period of 15 to 20 years to create a post-oil economy – a declaration less of ‘oil independence’ and more the end of oil dependence**.”
Once again, has Milliband actually thought this through? A post-oil economy in 15 years? Without a completely revitalised, reprioritised and re-empowered localised economy underpinning it? How does this sit with the Government’s commitment to international ‘free trade’? Taken to its logical conclusion, the aim of creating a ‘post oil economy’ in 15 years will necessitate a complete rethink of every aspect of Government policy. Goodbye to aeroplanes, centralised food distribution, non-organic farming, and our dependence on international trade. Can we expect planning policy to start changing to favour urban agriculture?
Of course, taken to its logical conclusion, creating a ‘post-oil economy’ in 15 years is what we at **Transition Culture** have been working on and trying to develop, through initiatives such as Transition Town Totnes. The Energy Descent Plan model is the tool we have been developing for this, and it is a very powerful vehicle for moving towards this kind of society.
The implications are far reaching and profound, and I suspect Milliband hasn’t thought them through. But it is a sign that he is starting to think in the right direction. For a Government Minister it is a wonderful quote, I plan to have the T-shirts with it on printed first thing tomorrow.
Ultimately, what Milliband’s statement appears to be saying is that business-as-usual is over. Finished. Our energy base is diminishing, and every barrel of oil we continue to use lessens the possibility of future life on this planet. We need to localise, decarbonise, and rebuild resilience on the scale of a wartime mobilisation. We need to mobilise all sectors of society, and Milliband is saying that the Government will now support and enable all Energy Descent Plan processes. At least, I think that’s what he’s saying. It’s certainly what he should be saying, if the aspiration of a post-oil economy is ever to be realised within 15 years.
No doubt in a few weeks he’ll tell us that cheap air travel will continue indefinitely and that we can’t survive without international trade. For now though, I will bask in the glory of a Government minister talking about ‘post-oil economies’ within 15 year time frames. It is a sign that somewhere, somehow, things are starting to shift. I would say that somewhere in Government the ice floes are starting to melt, but somehow, given the context, that would be a tragically inappropriate metaphor.