Finding a global solution to Climate Change: 26 January 2009

The Policy Team this afternoon attended a seminar organised by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) on ‘Brokering a global deal on climate change’. Speakers Joan Ruddock MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Climate Change, and Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, discussed the steps needed to secure assent to a comprehensive, truly global treaty on climate change in Copenhagen later this year.

The Copenhagen treaty, successor to the Kyoto agreement, could be judged a success if it contained the following, according to Mr de Boer:

  • Clarity on quantifying emission limitation for developed countries.
  • Clarity on nationally appropriate mitigation strategies in developing countries.
  • Clarity on financial and technological support for mitigation and adaptation, involving innovative new methods of funding outwith carbon markets.
  • Clarity on an institutional framework to deliver support for mitigation and adaptation measures.

The Minister stated that the UK Government was under no illusions about the size of the task as hand but stressed that Government’s commitment to tackling climate change would not falter in the face of the global economic crisis. The global economic downturn did present a challenge to this agenda, said Mr de Boer: in Copenhagen, a method of making climate change mitigation ‘pay for itself’, without the need to mobilise extra finance from Government, should be found.

The Minister defended the Government against comments from the audience that campaigns relying on individual voluntary, rather than society-wide mandatory, action did not go far enough. She stressed that as an elected body, the Government could not realistically impose radical measures upon voters if it wished to retain their support. The Government would instead proceed through consensus building amongst the public, whilst introducing legislation to necessitate business taking action to mitigate climate change which it would not previously have done. She noted that the UK Climate Change Act: to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050, is groundbreaking legislation.

Mr de Boer viewed accurate pricing as the key to tackling climate change. The price paid for goods and services should adequately reflect the pollution created through their manufacture or consumption. The effect of this would be to stimulate innovation: to bring renewable energy solutions to the market and so drive down the price of using them relative to fossil fuels.

The commitment to tackling climate change was palpable from both The Minister and Mr de Boer and both were optimistic that a deal could be reached in Copenhagen, particularly given the willingness of the new Obama administration to engage with negotiations. Mr de Boer stressed that further refinement would be needed post-Copenhagen, but that it was vital to reach initial agreement this year.