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Copenhagen will be a historic gathering, says Benn

The importance of the COP15 summit in Copenhagen will go down in history, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP said yesterday.

In his keynote address at the Environment Agency annual conference yesterday, Benn said: “In my mind it is no exaggeration to call it the most important gathering in the history of mankind.”

The “greatest danger”, he said, is that the COP15 delegates might say “it’s too tough” and postpone taking action or meaningful decisions.

Emphasising the importance of the meeting’s outcome, he said: “We need that summit to reach an agreement.”

“In my mind it is no exaggeration to call it the most important gathering in the history of mankind.”

Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP

In his address, Benn stated the importance of engineering expertise in tackling climate change. “It is our ingenuity that has brought about great leaps in science and technology,” he said, adding that that ingenuity had also contributed to climate change, and would be essential in slowing it.

He also spoke on the convergence of climate change and the recession, and said we must “rebuff” the idea that we must choose between the future of our economy and our environment, which he called “absolute nonsense”.

Still, he said, there must be a reconciliation between countries’ desire for economic growth and the possible environmental consequences of such continued growth.

Big priorities

Benn identified “four big things we have got to do something about”: reducing carbon emissions; ensuring we can cope with growing populations; working towards making the concept of waste obsolete; and learning to live with a sense of environmental balance.

He also spoke on waste management, saying that the methane emitted by landfills is “adding to the problem” and that waste could be a useful resource. “It doesn’t make sense to be dumping things that are valuable in a hole in the ground. It really doesn’t,” he said.

Benn also touched on anaerobic digestion, which could help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He said: “Frankly, this technology is just waiting to take off.”

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