Tackling climate change will require local, national and international action

At Durban, leaders must show they understand the scale of the climate change emergency.

As delegates continue their discussions in Durban for the 17th Climate Change Conference they do so in the knowledge that this represents the last chance for developed nations to sign up to a second term of the Kyoto Protocol, which specifies legal limits for their carbon dioxide emissions, before it expires at the end of next year.

Recently I had the opportunity to join Oxfam to see for myself their REE CALL Livelihood interventions in the Satkhira District, Bangladesh. Whilst I was there I met with a number of women's groups who had come together to look at reducing the risks associated with climate change and increasing local risk awareness. They wanted to take more control and responsibility for their futures and had joined together to establish their local climate risks, priorities and to write a plan for local action. These community groups, formed to confront one specific issue, have started to branch out to look at other challenges they face.

Those women lived under constant threat from rising waters and devastating cyclones, and yet their hope and optimism was inspirational. It was heartening to see that at the same time as the Bangladeshi Prime Minister was hosting a vulnerable countries forum with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to start addressing the challenge of climate change, local groups were organising to protect their communities and to build a better future for themselves and their children.

At the same time in the UK, Caroline Flint was launching the Labour Party's Climate Change Pledge which called on David Cameron to start showing international leadership on this issue. This means:

  • Seizing the opportunity to build a low carbon economy;
  • Pushing for a second period of the Kyoto protocol and working towards a global deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Delivering on climate finance.

It is this kind of action at a local, national and international level which is needed if the world is to meet the challenge of climate change.

Durban presents the UK and international community with yet another chance to show they understand the scale of the climate change emergency. Political leaders owe it to the women I met in Bangladesh and millions of others around the world to take bold and decisive action.

I travelled to Bangladesh with the GAVI Alliance for World Pneumonia Day, which is a day organised to highlight that pneumonia remains the world's leading killer of children under 5 and is largely preventable through vaccines. The GAVI Alliance is a public private global health organisation that helps to provide these vaccines to some of the world's poorest people. Earlier this year, the UK Government pledged an additional GBP 814 million to support GAVI, which has helped immunise 288 million children and saved an estimated five million lives since 2000. The organisation is looking to immunise more than 250 million children from 2011-2015 and save over 4 million additional lives.

I was delighted to be able to see the fantastic work GAVI are carrying out on the ground and you can see my World Pneumonia Day report from the field here.

Ivan Lewis is the shadow secretary of state for international development

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Emily Thornberry heckled by Labour MPs as tensions over Trident erupt

Shadow defence secretary's performance at PLP meeting described as "risible" and "cringeworthy". 

"There's no point trying to shout me down" shadow defence secretary Emily Thornberry declared midway through tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party meeting. Even by recent standards, the 70-minute gathering was remarkably fractious (with PLP chair John Cryer at one point threatening to halt it). Addressing MPs and peers for the first time since replacing Maria Eagle, Thornberry's performance did nothing to reassure Trident supporters. 

The Islington South MP, who voted against renewal in 2007, said that the defence review would be "wide-ranging" and did not take a position on the nuclear question (though she emphasised it was right to "question" renewal). She vowed to listen to colleagues as well as taking "expert advice" and promised to soon visit the Barrow construction site. But MPs' anger was remorseless. Former shadow defence minister Kevan Jones was one of the first to emerge from Committee Room 14. "Waffly and incoherent, cringeworthy" was his verdict. Another Labour MP told me: "Risible. Appalling. She compared Trident to patrolling the skies with spitfires ... It was embarrassing." A party source said afterwards that Thornberry's "spitfire" remark was merely an observation on changing technology. 

"She was talking originally in that whole section about drones. She'd been talking to some people about drones and it was apparent that it was absolutely possible, with improving technology, that large submarines could easily be tracked, detected and attacked by drones. She said it is a question of keeping your eye on new technology ... We don't have the spitfires of the 21st century but we do have some quite old planes, Tornadoes, but they've been updated with modern technology and modern weaponry." 

Former first sea lord and security minister Alan West complained, however, that she had failed to understand how nuclear submarines worked. "Physics, basic physics!" he cried as he left. Asked how the meeting went, Neil Kinnock, who as leader reversed Labour's unilateralist position in 1989, simply let out a belly laugh. Thornberry herself stoically insisted that it went "alright". But a shadow minister told me: "Emily just evidently hadn't put in the work required to be able to credibly address the PLP - totally humiliated. Not by the noise of the hecklers but by the silence of any defenders, no one speaking up for her." 

Labour has long awaited the Europe split currently unfolding among the Tories. But its divide on Trident is far worse. The majority of its MPs are opposed to unilateral disarmament and just seven of the shadow cabinet's 31 members share Jeremy Corbyn's position. While Labour MPs will be given a free vote when the Commons votes on Trident renewal later this year (a fait accompli), the real battle is to determine the party's manifesto stance. 

Thornberry will tomorrow address the shadow cabinet and, for the first time this year, Corbyn will attend the next PLP meeting on 22 February. Both will have to contend with a divide which appears unbridgeable. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.