I don't want to live in a world without roast beef

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has warned against campaigns by pressure groups which will undermine public support for action on climate change.

The Shadow Environment Secretary made his comments following reports that Sir Paul McCartney is to visit Brussels to recruit support for the "meat-free Mondays" campaign.

Mr Herbert said: "The argument seems so easy: cut down meat consumption and the planet will be saved.  But even if a world without roast beef was one in which we all wanted to live - and please count me out - we need to think a little harder about what will really work to arrest global warming.

"A global deal to combat dangerous climate change at the UN talks in Copenhagen next month is critical.  But successful action won't end with a new international agreement, whenever it is struck.

"For a start, we'll need to maintain the public pressure that is driving governments to agree action.  That means guarding against demands for behavioural changes so unrealistic that they risk undermining public support for the steps we can and must take."

Mr Herbert made his comments during a trip to New Zealand where, in a speech to the University of Canterbury, he called for an agreement at Copenhagen that is "ambitious" and "binding" but fair to the developing world.

The MP said: "We cannot disregard the need for agriculture to make its contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  But nor should we expect agriculture to change practices in a way that handicaps our ability to meet the global food demand of 2030."

Mr Herbert welcomed the Global Alliance announced by New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key to meet "... the twin challenge of ensuring food security while reducing [farm] emissions", and announced that a future Conservative Government would join the initiative.

Mr Herbert said that we needed to "live within our environmental means, as surely we must live within our economic means" by minimising waste, conserving natural resources, recognising the importance of biodiversity and valuing nature.

And whilst acknowledging the need for changes in lifestyles and business practices, Mr Herbert said that we cannot succeed by impoverishing the West.  He argued that we should "pursue sustainable growth, not reject the idea of growth itself".

Summing up, Mr Herbert spoke of the need to set out a vision for a "good future" where "we all enjoy and truly value the fruits of a cleaner, quieter more beautiful environment, and where individuals and communities live within their environmental means and use resources sustainably".

Nick Herbert visited New Zealand at the invitation of their Agriculture Minister, David Carter, during the period where Parliament prorogued before the Queen's Speech, and coinciding with the Royal New Zealand Show.  He met with ministers, government officials and industry leaders to discuss farming and environmental issues, and visited farms and food businesses across the country, as well as a Marine Nature Reserve.



Notes for Editors

1. For the full text of Nick Herbert's speech to the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, visit [link to follow].

2. For Nick Herbert's comments on the "meat-free Mondays" campaign, published on The Guardian website, visit http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/16/mccartney-stern-meat-free-mondays.

Christopher N Howarth