Government’s position in the lead-up to Doha: Speech to Chatham House by Edward Davey

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Introduction Can I start by congratulating and thanking Chatham House for once again helping to provide real leadership on all aspects of the critical challenge of climate change. From focusing on ...


Can I start by congratulating and thanking Chatham House for once again helping to provide real leadership on all aspects of the critical challenge of climate change.
From focusing on the science and the real world impacts of climate change, current and future, conferences like this play a vital role in helping drive the policy agenda in the UK and beyond.

Climate risks

While I imagine that no one here today would question the need for international action on climate change, there are some who do. So we all continue to have a role in presenting the arguments - both dispassionately and with passion. Some of you are particularly well-placed to help communicate that need: that remains an important task.
While we must always respect people’s proper scepticism, we must also confront those who are in denial of reality with the evidence.

And the fact that we need to step up our actions.

Latest analysis by UNEP shows that current pledges to 2020, even interpreted in the most favourable way possible, would only get us half the way towards a two-degree trajectory.
That leaves a lot of work to do to avoid a path leading inexorably towards the level of climate change that is rightly described as ‘catastrophic’ - and leading more immediately to an emissions gap in 2020 of a minimum of 6 Gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent.
Any amount of climate change - be it one degree, two degrees or more, and regardless of its cause - places all our economies at risk.

At home, intense rainfall, more extreme weather and wetter winters will significantly increase the UK’s existing vulnerability to flooding. That threatens not only to affect people’s homes, but also to hit the operation of businesses, with increased threats of damage and disruption, including to supply chains.
It could also threaten critical infrastructure systems. And we’re already seeing the impact on food production and prices.

At the same time, in what sounds like a contradiction but is in fact only a cruel irony, the UK’s water resources are projected to come under increased pressure, with droughts becoming more severe.

Climate risks in many other parts of the world are far more severe, including effects on global health, political stability and international supply chains, as well as price shocks. Significant displacement of populations in low-lying regions, such as much of Bangladesh, is already starting to look inevitable.

I know you’ve already looked at this in some detail this morning, and it’s timely that Chatham House is looking at security, resilience and diplomacy over these two days.

So yes, I do want people to understand the scale and urgency of the challenge. But this Government’s interest in addressing climate change is not born of a desire to lead a campaign, to start a movement. I don’t believe that’s our job.

Government’s interest is far more hard-headed. We know that climate change represents a systemic threat to our security and prosperity, that it poses risks to the long-term economic growth of economies around the world, including our own. And, on the flip side, we can see that tackling it brings economic opportunities.

UK action: domestic and EU

In the UK, of course, we are committed to reducing our own carbon emissions, with a system of carbon budgets providing a clear trajectory to our 2020 and 2050 targets.

And our energy policy, including the reform of the electricity market which I shall be taking forward through the Energy Bill, is expressly designed to bring on significant new investment in low-carbon energy infrastructure.

Within the EU, we are pressing for a move to a 30% target for 2020. This would show leadership at a European level, and also ensure that we are well placed to benefit from low carbon energy infrastructure investments and energy efficiency improvements.

UK action - international

But to address the global issue, of course we need global solutions. My colleague the Foreign Secretary has described climate change as “perhaps the 21st century’s biggest foreign policy challenge”, and he is absolutely right.
The UK is helping developing countries shift onto low-carbon, climate-resilient pathways, providing £2.9bn of climate finance through our International Climate fund. As of March 2012, UK had programmed and allocated £1bn in ‘Fast Start’ funding. And we are calling other donors to do similarly.

I’m also pleased to see some progress in unblocking private finance flows - for example in India thanks to WEF and the Clinton Climate Foundation. In the UK we will be promoting sharing of information and new ideas on scaling up private investment through the Capital Markets Climate Initiative.

But delivering an inclusive, legally binding agreement remains the most effective means of reducing global emissions in line with our agreed goal of limiting global temperature increases to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Doha goals

Last year in Durban, as part of a finely balanced package, we agreed to adopt by 2015 a global, legally binding agreement that will come into effect in 2020. That is a realistic timetable, one that requires us to make steady progress. That means that we are not facing a one-time-only opportunity at Doha. We need to agree a work-plan for the negotiations to 2015, but we don’t have to bet the farm on achieving everything in one go.
We are seeking at Doha to build the elements of our climate regime, such as finance, adaptation, accounting, and new market mechanisms, which are needed pre-2020, and which the post-2020 agreement can take further.

Maintaining and developing the existing Kyoto architecture will help here too. A number of issues need to be resolved before we can adopt a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol, but we are working with colleagues around the globe to do so in time for Doha.
And we need also to make progress in understanding and implementing the emissions pledges we have on the table from a large number of developed and developing countries.

However, as it is already clear that those pledges are insufficient, we urgently need to increase our ambition on mitigation before the new agreement comes into force. This means looking at complementary initiatives, additional to national pledges, that can close the gap.

An example would be stepping up our action in HFCs and deforestation, and addressing sectors not covered by the UNFCCC such as international shipping and aviation.

We have further challenging issues to address between now and 2015, including how to take account of countries’ “Common But Differentiated Responsibilities” for tackling climate change, by moving towards a spectrum of commitments that reflects the economic realities of the twenty-first century. The current binary divide between developed and developing countries, was defined in 1990, and it’s time to move on from it.

What we need is a solution that is fair for all and that will enable us to achieve our 2 degrees goal.

Economic opportunities

A global deal will be important for setting the framework for developing low-carbon economies. That will boost growth and investment, here in the UK and internationally. We have the opportunity to create the clarity, certainty and confidence that business seeks.
The CBI reported recently that the UK’s low-carbon sector grew 2.3% in real terms in 2010-11, beating global green business growth, to carve out a £122bn share of a world market that’s worth £3.3 trillion.

The train is already moving in the right direction, but a good outcome at Doha will allow us to yell “all aboard” to investors and businesses thinking of joining or expanding their role in the sector.

We should also be motivated by what is happening elsewhere in the world. Last year, global investment in renewables, at $227bn, outstripped investment in fossil fuels for the first time. China and India are investing in green, developing technologies, both as part of their own move to a low-carbon economy and ensuring their own energy security.
Brazil is undertaking massive efforts to tackle deforestation, and can now demonstrate a long-term trend that has seen clearance rates fall by about three quarters since peak deforestation in 2004.

And consumer goods giant Unilever is looking at its own supply chain impacts, notably around palm oil.

This step up can be a boon for the UK - the trade surplus for the UK’s green industries was £5bn last year, and 7% of all UK green goods and services went to China.

Of course we are engaged at a governmental level - including in some innovative ways. For example, my own department’s 2050 calculator is proving something of an international hit, with 11 countries aside from the UK now exploring and using the 2050 methodology, including China, India, the US, South Korea, Brazil and South Africa. If you’re not familiar with the calculator, I suggest you have a look at the DECC website.


The UNFCCC negotiations are complex, and I do not pretend that Doha will be easy.
There are significant political challenges, with a small and sometimes a large P. Outside the negotiations, this is a period of political upheaval - the Eurozone discussions are ongoing, we watch the US elections with considerable interest, and the next six months will see the leadership in China go through a generational change.
And, in difficult economic times, measures with an upfront cost can be unappealing, even if the medium term benefits heavily outweigh that cost, and no matter how severe the long-term risks of not acting.

But I am going to Doha with a clear mission to deliver meaningful progress on the Durban package.

I am doing this to ensure that we can address the risks that climate change poses to us all, to our security and prosperity. And I am doing this so that we can take advantage of the opportunities that the transition to a low-carbon economy offers for growth and investment, here in the UK and worldwide.