Benn says tackling climate change is up to individuals

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People who want the world to change can make a start by changing their own habits, a contender for Labour's deputy leadership said yesterday.

Hilary Benn, the International Development Secretary, called for a "new type of politics" to tackle climate change - but skirted cautiously around the question of whether new government policies are needed too.

Mr Benn told a local government conference that Britain needs a new generation of environmental and political campaigners who do not restrict their activities to voting and signing petitions but are ready to seize whatever chances are available to make a difference. That includes making "small changes" in their own lives.

He said: "As well as political pressure, it's about us changing the way we live. It's about putting politics at the heart of everything we do. Not an old kind of politics, limited to voting - a new kind of politics that informs how we live."

The two best examples of a new kind of politics were the campaigns to tackle poverty in Africa and to avert climate change, he added. "Make Poverty History and climate change are both rooted in global justice. But tackling climate change is a local issue too," Mr Benn said.

He called for "a politics that says I am going to change... I might start small. I might just start recycling if I didn't before. Or I might just take the bus instead of driving. But I will make a difference. And who knows, it might even improve my quality of life."

He added: "Political power isn't only something politicians have; it's something people lend politicians. And the more politicians share power with people, the more power we all have to get things done."

Mr Benn is among Labour MPs hoping to succeed John Prescott, who retires next year.