Last updated on 9 September 2014, 7:46 am
Climate change secretary Ed Davey says governments facing ‘pivotal moment’ on dealing with issue
World governments are facing a “pivotal moment” on dealing with climate change, the UK’s energy secretary will say on Tuesday, before a meeting of heads of state and government in New York this month.
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has called the meeting of world leaders on the back of the UN’s annual general assembly as a prelude to crunch talks in Paris next year at which a new global agreement on the climate is supposed to be signed.
Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat energy and climate change secretary, will unveil the UK government’s strategy for the negotiations. Although the current talks are “not the last hope” of tackling climate change, he will say: “While the negotiations will undoubtedly be challenging, I judge the prospects of a comprehensive climate change deal to be the best since we first began this journey many decades ago.”
He said the UK had brought businesses and environmental campaigners together to push for unity. “Our business community has recognised that decarbonisation and securing long-term prosperity go hand in hand, from the savings that can be made through energy efficiency to the growth prospects through the supply chain.
A strong, vocal and committed network of NGOs, pressure groups and activists have been instrumental in sustaining political will and public acceptance. We must show the rest of Europe and the rest of the world that we speak with one voice on this.”
He also called on the G7 and the G20 groups of industrialised nations to show similar commitments to emissions cuts, but did not set out what targets from those nations would be acceptable to the UK.
Davey will not be present at the crunch meetings in the UN climate summit on 23 September, as the UK will be represented by the prime minister, David Cameron. UN officials hope that private conversations among leaders will bring greater progress than has been made at the set-piece negotiations held each year under its framework convention on climate change.
A report from the Department of Energy and Climate Change on Tuesday sets out benefits to the UK from cutting emissions, including economic savings from greater energy efficiency, and avoiding the dangerous effects of climate change including flooding.
Davey will call for “emissions reductions from all countries”. However, it is unclear whether this would mean absolute cuts in current emissions levels, even from the poorest developing countries, which would be highly controversial, or commitments from such countries to ensure lower emissions levels in the future than is projected if emissions levels continue to rise at their current rates.
The latter is the formula usually used for the least developed countries, many of whom have been among the nations calling most strongly for an international treaty, and recognises their continuing need to develop and the greater responsibility of nations that have benefited from earlier development to cut their emissions by higher amounts.
A DECC official said the UK did not have a fixed idea on a timetable by when cuts should be achieved. Europe has agreed to cut emissions by 40% by 2030, relative to 1990 levels, a target that green campaigners have said is too low, as most of those cuts have already been achieved. But for a global pact to be effective, a timetable on nations’ targets would have to be included.
Leo Hickman, chief adviser on climate change at WWF-UK, said: “With China and the US making increasingly positive noises, this [DECC] report is further proof that governments around the world are feeling ever more optimistic that a global climate deal can be secured in Paris at the end of 2015. The question now is not whether there will be a deal or not, but what that deal looks like.
“It must deliver the following: a strong legal framework and clear rules; ambitious action that keeps us well below a temperature rise of 2C since preindustrial times; and a central role for equitable financing that ensures vulnerable nations can adapt to a changing climate as well as make the transition to a low-carbon economy.”