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Vienna | 27.2.2008 | 18:38 
God, what's happening in the world! A reality check on the web.

Chris, DaddyD, Zita

"This little window of opportunity"
  I had heard that Thom Yorke doesn't suffer fools greatly. A question in the wrong direction or lack of clarity could bring an interview to an abrupt close. But I was on safe ground. This wasn't going to be about anything to do with his music so I wouldn't have to try to spend all night researching themes in Radiohead lyrics or be in any danger of posing a question that he's been asked over a hundred times before but in a slightly different way.

In fact I was feeling confident because the subject is climate change and it is something we've covered extensively in Reality Check so I had all the facts and figures at my fingertips. At the same time, I was also feeling quite weary because it is climate change - something we've indeed covered over and over again - and we all know the problems!
  Thom Yorke has the world at his feet. Politicians know his credentials and sense his credibility so many have tried to court him with the odd invite to turn up for a chat and customary handshake. But he's become wary of that. In 2005, he refused to meet then Prime Minister Tony Blair, telling NME: "Initially when it came up I tried to be pragmatic. But Blair has no environmental credentials as far as I'm concerned. I came out of that whole period just thinking, I don't want to get involved directly, it's poison. I'll just shout my mouth off from the sidelines."

Back to today, it's 8:50am and I'm told Thom Yorke is sitting in a hotel room in Brussels waiting for a radio link up. But the line is not working. Frenzied phone-calls to the organizers Global 2000 and after a short delay we get the technology more or less sorted out and stuck into the issue.

photo: EPA
The Big Ask
  Brussels is where he's at because as an ambassador for Friends of the Earth, the organisation is launching its latest European-wide campaign "The Big Ask". Thom was instrumental in getting "The Big Ask" going in the UK and this it's hoped that the success there will be emulated across the EU. Essentially, it's about asking your local politician what he or she is really doing on climate change. As Thom told me, "When you have people on the ground demanding action and you have the media talking about it, the last people left are governments and I think the reason for that is that governments are lobbied heavily by pollution industries and so on, who obviously, it is in their interest for things to stay as they are but that's a denial of the situation, so what we have at the moment is a lot of empty talk and not much real action.

In the UK, "The Big Ask" has produced a breakthrough. Exactly a year ago, the British Government agreed in principle to introduce a new law, which would create a binding target for cutting CO2 emissions by 2050 and set three 5-year carbon budgets, limiting the UK's CO2 emissions for each 5-year period.

  Now, "The Big Ask" roadshow moves onto continental Europe and the message from Thom Yorke, Friends of the Earth and Global 2000 is to create as much awareness as possible about the climate change issue here. They know you know it all but they want you to put it back on the agenda and to keep asking your local MP what they are doing about carbon emissions and not to be fobbed off by the "green-washing" talk of officials who claim they speak on this issue but at the end of the day do very little.
I felt fairly elated, Thom Yorke was on a roll. This is a subject he speaks about intelligently and eloquently .

He lies awake at night worrying about the subject and it gave me a bit of food for thought - if he, with all his creative energy, can be bothered spending a day in Brussels trying to encourage the burocrats in their shiny offices to finally take this idea seriously, maybe I shouldn't be so cynical the next time it comes up. He put it this way:
"you hope that as an adult, this little window of opportunity - you can say in your heart of hearts you've tried to use that constructively and make (reducing carbon emissions) happen?

The interview is available as FM4 Internet Podcast.

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