climate change current affairs development politics

UK announces its ‘Road to Copenhagen’

“This is make or break time for our climate and our future” said Ed Milliband today. “With less than six months to go before crunch negotiations in Copenhagen, it’s clear that there is no plan B for the planet.”

The minister for energy and climate change joined Gordon Brown to roll out the UK’s ‘Road to Copenhagen’ strategy for securing an international agreement on emissions. The roadmap describes Britain’s ambitions for the talks, committing to keep warming below two degrees, and stabilising CO2 levels at 45o ppm. There was talk of £50 billion of low carbon investment in the UK, and £100 billion a year for international funds. Brown mendioned the inclusion of aviaton and shipping emissions in the talks, and funding for adaptation in developing countries.

Development features prominently in the plan, with the development secretary demonstrating the cross-department approach:  “Climate change is a development issue” said Douglas Alexander. “It is the world’s poorest people that are most vulnerable to the rising sea levels and extreme weather that a changing climate will bring, and it is vital that our work in tackling poverty reflects this.”

Quoting from the Global Humanitarian Forum report, Gordon Brown highlighted the injustice of climate change: “here is the greatest injustice of all” he said, “98% of those dying and seriously affected live in the poorest countries, and yet those countries account for only 8% of global emissions. Those hit first and hardest are those who have done the least.” Consequently, the UK will demand the right for poorer countries to grow. In order to “leave room for the growth of the developing world, the developed countries need to reduce their own emissions by at least 80% by 2050.”

Developing countries will have a role to play too, with the plan focusing on leap-frogging dirty technologies and de-centralising power supply. Crucially, Brown announced that funding for climate change adaptation for poorer countries would not be taken from the UK’s current aid budget.

It’s great to hear calls for this kind of fair play from the government. There is still a slavish commitment to growth, with promises of “delivering growth not by putting carbon into our energy systems but by taking it out”, but one step at a time. Talk of encouraging nuclear power in developing countries could also be controversial, creating a potential two tier system where some countries are trusted with nuclear technology, and some are not. (See Iran) Overall however, this is the kind of leadership we have hoped for, and it sends a powerful message to other countries readying their own responses to the Copenhagen talks.

Now we just need to see whether the US Congress will approve the climate change bill today, and that will cap a very eventful week in the environmentalist’s calendar.

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