UK calls for "emissions reductions from all countries" as part of 2015 global climate change agreement

Out-Law News | 15 Sep 2014 | 3:52 pm | 2 min. read

Every country in the world should commit to reducing carbon emissions "in a way that reflects their national situation" and opportunities, the UK’s secretary of state for energy and climate change has said.

Ed Davey was speaking as the UK government published a new report setting out what it hoped to see from a potential global climate change deal, which is due to be finalised in Paris in 2015. The UK's position is that it is possible for countries to "go green" while continuing to prosper and develop, with opportunities for economic growth and job creation not only in the conventional 'green' sectors but also in transport, retail and telecommunications.

"There is an increasing political will from big and small countries alike to tackle climate change both through domestic action and in the international negotiations," Davey said. "And it is not just governments who want a deal; there is widespread support from businesses, NGOs and campaign groups both in the UK and internationally."

The 195 member countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed in 2011 to negotiate a global legally-binding agreement on climate change by 2015, to come into force by 2020. The negotiations will conclude at the UNFCCC Conference of Parties in Paris on 15 December 2015. The resulting agreement will be the first global climate change treaty, following on from the 1997 Kyoto Agreement which was never ratified by the US and did not include developing countries such as China.

"I'm confident that the momentum is building to make Paris next year a decisive point in history – a moment when the world comes together and agrees action that will move it towards a safer, healthier and more prosperous future," Davey said.

The UK's paper proposes that the EU, US and Japan take the most ambitious action to cut their emissions by 2030, followed by other major economies including the remaining G20 countries. This would allow less developed countries to contribute less to the overall global target. However, all countries would be expected to deliver "ambitious and fair commitments" to reduce their emissions far enough in advance of the conference to allow international organisations and analysts to assess them against the aim of keeping global warming below two degrees celcius.

The paper sets out the latest thinking from scientists on climate change risks and impacts, many of which are already being seen in the UK. This includes the cost and disruption to businesses of extreme weather events, both in the UK and internationally; predicted increases in frequent and severe flooding and rising sea levels encroaching on UK coastal areas. Indirect effects could include rising food prices and the potential shortages of certain foodstuffs, rising costs of goods and materials and loss of trade and earnings due to the impact of climate change on key UK trading partners, according to the paper.

An effective deal could address these risks while creating "huge economic opportunities" for countries around the world, according to the report. Emerging and developing countries could attract billions of pounds in new foreign direct investment as they developed domestic low-carbon business sectors and policies which avoided the "political, social and economic costs of the old carbon intensive development path", it said. The UK itself could benefit from hundreds of thousands of low carbon jobs, new opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the low carbon sector and energy efficiency measures which reduced consumer bills and improved living standards, it said.