Ed Miliband, accompanied by shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, meeting Barack Obama at the White House earlier today. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Show Hide image

What Miliband and Obama talked about

The pair met for 25 minutes at the White House and discussed issues including the economy, climate change and the Scottish referendum. 

To the undoubted relief of Labour, Ed Miliband got his meeting with Barack Obama (and a bit more than a "brush-by"). The pair talked at the White House for 25 minutes after Obama joined Miliband's discussion with National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Douglas Alexander, Labour strategist Stewart Wood and Miliband's chief of staff Tim Livesey were also present. 

For all the inevitable cynicism around the meeting, a photo with the US president ten months before a general election will do the Labour leader no harm, and likely some good. Indeed, as he told British foreign correspondents before the meeting: "I am going because I want to be prime minister of Britain in less than ten months and because it is incredibly important - and it is what I think the British people would want - to have a prime minister who works closely with the United States."

Here's the Labour readout of the meeting: 

Ed Miliband today met President Barack Obama for talks in the White House.

The Leader of the Opposition and the President discussed a range of issues, including the situation in Ukraine, Gaza, and the future of the European Union.

The pair also discussed the economy, climate change & the approaching referendum in Scotland.

The meeting lasted around 25 minutes.

Mr. Miliband also met the President's National Security Advisor Susan Rice and held talks with senior politicians in Washington.

And here's the White House's:

President Obama joined National Security Advisor Rice's meeting today with Mr. Ed Miliband, leader of the United Kingdom's opposition Labour Party. Mr Miliband was meeting with Ambassador Rice to discuss issues of shared concern, including the situations in Ukraine, Israel/Gaza, and Iraq. The President and Mr. Miliband affirmed the strong ties that bind the United States and the United Kingdom. The President and Mr. Miliband met previously during the President's visit to London in May 2011.

Earlier in the day, Miliband gave a seminar at the Centre for American Progress (Obama's favourite think-tank) attended by senior US figures, including Maryland governor Martin O'Malley and Jason Furman, one of the US president's senior economic advisers. In his opening remarks on the MH17 shooting, Miliband said: 

“This is the moment for a strong, determined and outward-looking EU to step up to its responsibilities.

“Europe and America must stand together as they have at crucial moments in the past.

“As President Obama made clear in his state visit to the UK in 2011, Europe is a cornerstone of US global engagement. Together we are the most potent catalyst for global action that there is in the world today.

“In the aftermath of the terrible tragedy of flight MH17 we must again be that catalyst for global solidarity and decisive action.

“And to achieve those ends this we need Britain at the heart of a reformed and resolute EU.

“Nothing could illustrate more starkly than the need for European and American partnership than the cloud cast globally from the events in the skies in Ukraine.

“Britain in Europe working in partnership with America is not only in all our interests, it is the best way to promote stability and prosperity across the globe.”

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

0800 7318496