In less than six months’ time countries from around the world will gather in Copenhagen to thrash out a new agreement on climate change.
Ahead of this momentous meeting UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said success would only follow from two major shifts in the way we think.
‘The first is to think not in political or economic cycles; not just in terms of years or even decade-long programmes and initiatives. But to think in terms of epochs and eras and how our stewardship will be judged not by tomorrow’s newspapers but by tomorrow’s children.
‘And the second is to think anew about how we judge success as a society. For sixty years we have measured our progress by economic gains and social justice. Now we know that the progress and even the survival of the only world we have depends on decisive action to protect that world. In the end, without environmental stewardship, there can be no sustainable prosperity and no sustainable social justice,’ the Prime Minister said.
The Copenhagen gathering will require each country to assess not only their own goals but the needs and purposes of others and recognise that we must work as a team if we are to make a breakthrough.
‘Over recent years the world has woken to the reality of climate change. But the fact is that we have not yet joined together to act against it. Copenhagen must be the moment we do so, a declaration of our mutual commitment as a single global society; the time, at last, when our understanding of the unavoidable interdependence of economic prosperity, social justice and environmental stewardship is transformed into common global action,’ Prime Minister Brown added.
Recent UK climate projections showed that the climate change already now inescapable will cause significant changes in temperature and rainfall in the UK by the 2040s; but the global emissions we allow over the next twenty years will radically affect the climate of future generations. On a greater scale, findings show that 98 per cent of those dying and seriously affected by global warming live in the poorest countries and yet those countries only account for eight per cent of global emissions.
The UK Prime Minister therefore proposes that we create an existence whereby the global temperature does not rise by more than two degrees. To achieve this, greenhouse gases much be stabilised at around 450 parts per million which in turn means global emissions must peak no later than 2020 and be cut by at least half on 1990 levels by 2050.
The UK Government also proposes that developed countries must seek to help developing countries adapt to the changes in climate change which are already in motion.
‘The economics are clear. The immense costs of future climate change are matched only by the enormous growth potential and growth dividend of the new green revolution: in energy efficiency; in energy production; and in transport. So we are building a new economic model – delivering growth not by putting carbon into our energy systems but by taking it out,’ Gordon Brown continued.
For the first time, last year saw global investment in renewables for power generation exceed that for fossil fuels, making up $140bn of an estimated $250bn total investment. The Government is hoping that the drive to a low carbon economy can be a powerful driver of global economic recovery.
However, change alone cannot be derived from the developed work. Estimates show that ninety per cent of future global emissions will come from the emerging and developing countries as they grow over the coming decades. Even if all the developed countries reduced their emissions to zero by 2050, the current path of emissions from developing countries would result in the average global temperature rise exceeding 2 degrees.
To which the Prime Minister responded, ‘But if all we say to these countries is that they cannot copy what we have done ourselves – when our development history has given us great prosperity while giving them many of its environmental costs – there can be no reasonable dialogue on which to build a shared future. This demands a new growth model that allows developing countries to leapfrog the old 19th and 20th century energy technologies which powered the first era of industrialisation.’
The UK is already spending over £800m in the current spending period on low carbon and climate resilient development. However, finance is needed if further advances are to be made and the Government has called on the private sector to play its part. As more countries begin to adopt emissions trading systems, there is a hope that links can be established between these schemes by 2015 to create a global, liquid market. The British Government would also be willing to support an international mechanism for the setting aside and auctioning of a small percentage of national emissions allowances as Norway has proposed.
The UK Prime Minister concluded, ‘If we are to achieve an agreement in Copenhagen I believe we must move the debate from a stand-off over hypothetical figures to active negotiation on real mitigation actions and real contributions. I propose we take a working figure for this purpose of around $100bn per annum by 2020. I believe the mechanisms I have set out are capable of raising at least this sum – and it is a credible number against which countries can develop their plans.
‘We can then get on with the really important task, which is turning these plans into reality. An ambitious agreement in Copenhagen is certainly achievable. And yet it remains far from certain. We cannot allow this to drift – when every year of delay retards investment, locks us into a higher emissions pathway, worsens the impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable, and increases the costs of eventual reduction.’
Copyright © 2009 NewNet
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