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Climate change – four reasons to be hopeful

 As things stand, the world is plainly not on track to keep the global temperature increase from climate change below two degrees centigrade, which is generally regarded as global warming’s danger threshold.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said last week that at best, current commitments would take us somewhat short of half way towards a climate safe trajectory; and a World Bank report published the same week showed some of the dangers of a world warmed by 4°C. Anyone who engages seriously with the science is right to be concerned.

But I would identify four reasons to be hopeful.  First, if we act we can still avert climate change’s worst impacts.  Both the UNEP report and an International Energy Agency report published the week before said that time was running out, but that 2 degrees is still within reach if we can muster the political will.

Second, the international process may be slow, but it is delivering.  Since the Copenhagen summit in 2009, countries representing 80 per cent of global emissions have made economy – wide pledges of action.  We agreed at Durban last year to work to a 2015 deadline for negotiating a new legally binding global deal, and I believe that it is reasonable to aim for step-by-step progress towards that deal, beginning in Doha.

In addition to agreeing a high level workplan towards the 2015 global deal, I want to see some concrete actions to reduce emissions before that, adoption of a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol with robust accounting and transparency arrangements for those not in Kyoto, and to give developing countries comfort on the continuing provision of finance.

Third, we have seen serious action by many countries, including some of the big emitters.  Globe International has reported that legislation is moving forward in all major economies.  Brazil has reduced deforestation by around two thirds since a peak in 2004.  Korea is spending  two per cent of its GDP on the low-carbon economy.  China has embedded energy efficiency and renewables targets in its latest five-year plan, and is testing carbon markets in seven of its provinces.

In the UK, our Carbon Budgets provide a clear pathway to our 2050 target of an 80 per cent emissions cut.  We are acting on energy efficiency and smarter infrastructure.  And I  have recently introduced an Energy Bill which will give investors and industry the attractive framework and the certainty they need to deliver the huge infrastructure investment that the UK’s energy sector needs.

As a result, we are on track to meet the milestones set by the EU Renewables Directive and to deliver enough renewable generation capacity to source 30% of the UK’s electricity from renewables by 2020.

In the EU, I will continue to argue next year that going from a 20% emissions cut in 2020 to 30%, adopting longer term targets in 2030, and a renewed focus on the benefits of the Green Economy will provide the clarity and confidence so many of our businesses are demanding of us.    

Fourth, this action is underpinned by important changes in the real economy.   According to Bloomberg, global investment in renewables outstripped fossil fuels for the first time last year. We are seeing new renewable energy technologies break into and compete successfully in the market place.  Solar PV has averaged 42% annual growth globally over the last decade;  onshore wind has averaged 27%.

In some markets, some solar technologies have come down in price by as much as 75% in only three years, and are now cheaper than fossil fuels in many parts of Africa and south Asia.  Companies such as Unilever, Vodafone, Walmart and Kingfisher are setting ambitious targets to make their supply chains more sustainable.  This isn’t just a marketing ploy: rising resource scarcity and climate stress means that sustainable, resilient production makes good business sense.  As we saw in Rio earlier this year, businesses are now setting the agenda for governments.

I am looking to build on the leadership of such companies with a major new programme to address the drivers of deforestation.  On Thursday, at an event hosted by HRH the Prince of Wales, I set out plans for working with the private sector and rainforest countries so that the timber and foodstuffs we buy do not cause deforestation. And alongside the US, Norway, Germany and Australia I committed jointly to accelerating our efforts to tackle deforestation, to have a chance of staying within 2 degrees.

The UK played a significant role in securing commitment in Durban last year to negotiate a new legally binding deal by 2015; and we are not letting up in our efforts. Tackling dangerous climate change is a complex task, but in the UK we are determined to rise to the challenge, working together with all Parties at the UN towards our shared goal of limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees, and preventing the worst effects of climate change.


Filed under: Climate Change

Comments: 6 Comments on Climate change – four reasons to be hopeful
Posted on: Dec 3 2012

6 Responses to “Climate change – four reasons to be hopeful”

  1. MR.B says:

    The real issue behind a lot of the renewable sectors is mis-information or even worse – No information.

    I have Investors waiting to see what happens to Rocs before committing to projects, whilst the customers are even more in the dark and becoming further dissilusioned.

    What happened to a decision by the end of November? You make a commitment and then go back on it, with no one seemingly taking responsibility. At the least you could let us know an alternative date instead of leaving us hanging around in yet even more uncertainty.

    These are peoples lives and businesses that you are playing with…Decc are the best people for transferring calls to a voicemail and getting no reply time after time… Yet again, no one to take responsibility.

  2. Cliff McQueen says:

    Mr Davey
    Your article references the rise in global emissions of CO2 but neglects to mention any other relevant factors when considering climate change. If we are going to spend billions of pounds of taxpayers money on attempting to control the climate, I think you owe it to the taxpayers to look at all the evidence.
    Do you and your advisers realise that you may be going into the next election with global temperatures not having risen for nearly 20 years? Also a major study published in the Guardian and the BBC shows that all the melting ice on the planet has caused the sea levels to rise by just 11 mm in 20 years. That is less than half an inch. At this rate it will take 500 years for all the melting glaciers and polar ice to raise the oceans by a foot. This is hard evidence as opposed to computer predictions.
    The voters, who you are appealing to, are unlikely to be impressed by your plan to spend their hard earned money solving a problem that does not appear to exist, based on the evidence. Their concerns are rather more immediate. Please don’t rely totally on activists and scientists with a vested interest. The interests of the taxpayer also deserves a fair hearing.

    • Charles Mossman says:

      If the temperatures have not increased, what is causing all the melting ice? The melting Arctic ice will not cause sea levels to rise because the ice is floating. We shall see sea levels rising once the Greenland and Antarctic start melting rapidly.

      I remember an experiment at school regarding melting ice. We measured the temperature of the water whilst the ice melted. It stayed at freezing until all the ice was gone. I suspect this phenomenon is happening to our planet, whilst the ice is melting the atmosphere and oceans remain cool, but once the ice is gone, life will not be worth living. Its all to do with latent energy.

  3. Bill Parker says:

    This would be praiseworthy if Mankind’s carbon output were a significant influence on climate change. It is not. Human contributions to the global CO2 output are estimated (World Resources) at less than one eight-hundredth of the total.

    Agriculture (nitration and deforestation) reveals man’s most profound influence over atmospheric changes and hence to global warming.

    What about having a few scientists amongst our elected representatives, who might influence the specious gambit of presuming carbon credits and taxation is the answer?

  4. Mr. Davey. The message you need to get across in order to get political and public support is that renewables work in both reducing carbon and saving money. We took out an oil central heating system and replaced it with heat pumps powered by turbines and solar panels. This saves over 20 tonnes of carbon annually and has turned energy from expenditure into income.

  5. Roger Parker says:

    Ed, Blah, Blah, Blah. VIP. Very commendable globe-trotting stuff; but at a multiple-local level of your own country and populace here in the UK, who knows and who cares what tree is chopped down somewhere over there.

    There is a hunger here at home for you to support multiple-local and to act local to show the way. Not just by using Green Deal to dump property energy-efficiency solely onto electricity Bill-payers; but by you leading by example by taking practical, visible actions to shape our everyday public space and life that in turn creates the comparitive context for each and every property holder to take their own particular actions.

    For instance, streetlights -darktime is like daytime. Why? Streets are ablaze with light and all night and household lighting and business lighting looks insignificant in comparison. You could fund a national street lighting conversion programme to convert to LED or something, and with smart controls therein to dim or turn off as and when appropriate. Much more refinement in application of public lighting is required and a move away from blanket provision.
    Again, bus transport. My city shuts down its buses at 11.15pm and so when arriving back by rail or leaving a city-centre restarant after 11.15pm, we cannot get home other than by taxi (extra expense). We need practical, local, public space actions from you to show the way to live energy efficiently.

    And oh, when the Prime Minister is taking about cutting electricity bill costs and about cutting fuel prices, why isn’t he taking that opportunity to bang the drum about doing our bit to get our own homes more energy efficient, and to use sustainable transport. Lead/talk by example.
    Roger Parker, Commercial Energy Assessor.

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