Speech

Launching the Climate Legislation Initiative

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

Edward Davey speech to GLOBE Climate Legislation Summit.

Introduction

Ladies and Gentlemen, It’s a pleasure to be with you here today and it’s great to see so many of you here in London.

You are here, of course, to launch the Climate Legislation Initiative.

Each country represented here faces unique challenges.

Climate change will affect each of our countries in different ways.

We face different hurdles in convincing our colleagues, our business people and our citizens of the need to act.

But we share one imperative – heading off the prospect of catastrophic climate change in the future, by taking real and meaningful action now.

So I’m particularly glad that this Globe initiative is aimed at lawmakers, parliamentarians and fellow politicians.

Making change happen

We understand how to make change happen.

We understand need for political momentum.

We understand that legal frameworks help provide that momentum.

Because legal frameworks provide confidence to investors, confidence that change will happen, confidence to plan for the long-term.

It says to people, this is real, this is happening, we will be held to account for what we do.

This issue of momentum is key – and that is why the Globe Climate Legislation Initiative is so important.

The Doha conference in December has maintained the forward momentum produced by Durban.

It has re-affirmed the commitment to a 2015 global agreement.

But we should be under no illusions.

There is a lot of work to do if we are to succeed in 2015.

And Globe – and you – can play a key role in that.

Putting in place national legally binding frameworks for carbon reductions will create the conditions for international action.

Showing how rhetoric and ambition can be turned into robust targets and real change.

Showing that you can move towards low carbon solutions and still be economically competitive in this globalised world.

This initiative is about making the Durban Platform a reality by changing the game on the ground.

Working from the bottom up.

So that by the time we get to 2015, signing up to international targets will be the natural thing to do.

Globe provides a great opportunity for lawmakers to meet, to share experience, and learn lessons from each other.

To point out to our own domestic audiences, that we are not alone, that others are acting, that we can’t afford to be left behind.

So being part of this Globe initiative is about taking domestic action, yes, but it can also be about being part of a campaign to deliver an ambitious international treaty in 2015.

And let us also be under no illusion about what is at stake here.

Urgency

Climate change is something that can seem far away – not just in terms of distance, but also time.

Talk of 2030 projections and 2050 pathways can make the threat seem remote.

But it’s not.

It is real and it is happening now.

The draft US National Climate Assessment released last week doesn’t mince its words.

“Sea level is rising, oceans are becoming more acidic, and glaciers and arctic sea ice are melting.

These changes are part of the pattern of global climate change, which is primarily driven by human activity.”

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is at its highest level for 800,000 years.

Global temperatures are rising - by over half a degree in the last 50 years.

As a result, sea ice in the Arctic is disappearing - reducing by over a tenth every ten year – and getting thinner too.

Weather patterns are changing, with the risk of extreme weather increasing.

That means for the UK, the risk of extreme flooding has now doubled compared to a century ago.

And as our understanding of the changing climate grows, so does our understanding of what those risks might mean for our people.

As the Observer newspaper put it this weekend.

“The Earth is set to become hotter, drier, unhealthier, more uncomfortable, dangerous and more disaster-prone place in the years to come.”

This could mean a more brutal environment for our citizens.

So if you are lobbied by those with vested interests in the energy status quo who may try and stop you legislating for a cleaner, safer future, think of the evidence, think of the world we will pass on to our children and our grandchildren.

To keep average global temperature increases to less than 2 degrees, we need to peak global emissions before 2020 – just eight years away.

To achieve that we must rewire the global economy now, becoming more resource efficient whilst delivering more growth.

The decisions that will shape the decades to come are being taken today in boardrooms and staterooms around the world.

And they must be taken in parliaments and in the courts too.

Because only by giving action the force of law can we ensure that the momentum is maintained – and that we are held accountable for what we pledge to do.

So this is about political leadership at all levels.

Green growth

Too often, we are told that those who go low-carbon first will sacrifice their competitiveness.

But the real danger is but being outpaced by other countries who are investing in clean, low-carbon business.

This is a boom market of £3.3 trillion, growing at 3.7% a year, with investment in renewables outpacing that in fossil fuels.

For our businesses this can mean opportunities, for our governments tax revenues, for our people jobs, for our societies insulation from the volatility of fossil fuel prices.

So this drive for low-carbon energy can be a real engine of growth for hard-pressed economies around the world.

And key to driving this growth are legally binding targets.

Legislation creates the clarity, certainty and confidence that the action promised will actually happen.

With an independent statutory regime that holds government to account.

This is what business needs to invest in a low-carbon future.

So national laws that set out our own national pathways to a clean energy future will leverage investment faster, bring job faster, drive growth faster.

So let me turn to the UK’s own experience in putting such a regime in place.

What has the UK done?

As a politician I understand the importance and values of political parties and political debate.

In my view, a strong multi-party political system with a vibrant challenging media keeps governments honest, encourages innovative policy solutions – and of course ensures that government acts in the common good.

So I’m all for rigorous opposition.

But there are some issues that have a long term, strategic impact on our nation, and our world.

The climate security of our nations and our planet definitely falls into that category.

In these instances, we have to rise above cheap, knee-jerk, short-term political opportunism and forge a consensus that spans the political groups in our societies.

In the United Kingdom, we work hard every day to maintain consensus on how we tackle climate change.

It has not been easy and it has been a long journey in which all political parties have, at times, shown courage and leadership.

But all political parties in Britain can be proud of the Climate Change Act of 2008 - the first comprehensive economy wide climate legislation of its kind.

The Act passed with 463 in favour, with only 3 votes against.

Pretty unheard of in an adversarial parliamentary system like ours.

The Act requires the UK to achieve at least an 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050.

It includes 5 year carbon budgets to help us stay on track.

And it set up the Committee on Climate Change to provide independent auditing to make sure we are held to account.

The Climate Change Act was passed under the last Labour Administration, but it is the current Liberal Democrat-Conservative Coalition that is now delivering.

Taking forward the practical polices that will create a low carbon economy – but also creating jobs and growth in the process.

Maximising energy efficiency by overhauling the housing stock through the Green Deal.

Setting up the Green Investment Bank to leverage private sector investment into low carbon.

And just at the end of last year, I introduced a new Energy Bill into Parliament for a major reform of our electricity market which will help ensure we deliver on our emissions reductions commitments, and attract the right investment for low carbon infrastructure.

What works for Britain may work for you, or you may have to develop strategies and legislation to tackle your own unique challenges.

In that process, there is so much we can learn from each other.

What others are doing

I am given hope that we can tackle climate change together by the work I’ve seen taking place in Mexico, China, South Korea and elsewhere.

In Mexico – a new climate change law which puts into place a country wide emission reduction target of 30% below Business as Usual by 2020.

And which establishes the basis for institutions, legal frameworks and financing to move to a low carbon economy.

China adopted its 12th 5 year plan in 2011 which includes targets to decrease both the energy intensity and the carbon intensity of its GDP by 2015.

South Korea with its 2009 law creating the legislative framework for emissions reduction targets, cap-and-trade, carbon tax, carbon labelling, carbon disclosure, and the expansion of new and renewable energy.

And there are others too: Australia, with its 2011 Clean Energy Act; and Kenya with legislation currently going through Parliament to name a few.

Conclusion

Passing national legislation is important – it matters in our countries, and as I said before it matters in terms of helping change the politics at the international level

This is why the Globe Initiative is such a useful tool.

It demonstrates the scale of what is happening in countries across the world.

And it can act as a spur to encourage those who are contemplating their own actions.

You are not alone – you are not the first – you are not the only one with your head above the parapet.

You are part of a global movement of bottom up action to tackle the biggest threat to our societies and our way of lives in the years ahead.

So to Globe, well done on this important initiative and to all of you who are participating, please continue with your efforts.

And let’s redouble our efforts, now, so by 2015, in just 3 years’ time, signing a new global law, a legally binding treaty, becomes much, much easier for governments around the world.

Make a real difference in peoples’ lives and shape our world in the years to come.