Lord Bourne’s speech on the global climate change deal

Lord Bourne’s keynote speech at 19th Annual Chatham House Climate Change Conference, “Measuring Progress and Completing the Deal" session.


It is a pleasure to be here this morning and have the opportunity to address you all in this distinguished venue.

This conference has become something of an institution in the annual climate calendar – an opportunity for interested parties from public, private and third sectors to engage with each other and generate momentum in the debate.

I feel particularly privileged to address you on the subject of a global climate deal at this crucial time, just a month before negotiations begin in Paris.

Christiana Figueres has ably set out the challenge and opportunity before us, highlighting where we are at now and the task before us for the future. I would like now to add my own personal thoughts and reflections, touching on three questions:

Firstly, what the United Kingdom expects from Paris.

Secondly, how I believe things have changed since Copenhagen.

And finally, how action in the real economy fits in.

UK expectations

So let me start with what the UK is looking for from Paris.

First and foremost, we want an ambitious deal with strong contributions from all countries.

I was recently at the INDC Forum in Rabat, which focused on the level of ambition. It was evident that a good amount of work has been done already.

As I speak more than 150 countries have come forward with their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. Those contributions, if delivered, represent a significant departure from business as usual.

But in Rabat it was also evident that more is needed, for three main reasons.

First, we need a regular period of review. We want to be able to assess progress and INDC contributions on a regular basis:

  • To take account of innovation, developments in technology, and the falling costs of deployment;
  • To consider the latest science and impacts; and
  • To ensure that can keep our below 2 degrees goal within reach.

Second, we think that this should be supported by a long term goal that gives confidence, clarity and certainty to business and investors about our direction of travel.

Third, beyond all of this, we also need legally binding rules. Rules that provide accountability. Rules that help level the playing field for business. Rules that provide assurance that governments will deliver what they have promised.

It is obvious, that we also need to ensure that we support countries in adapting to the impacts of climate change that are already locked in…

And to show that we are fully committed to supporting the poorest and most vulnerable countries take action – so climate finance will be key to help implementation of a strong, ambitious agreement.

Last month, the Prime Minister announced an increase in the UK’s climate finance over the next five years – providing £5.8 billion from 2016 up to 2020.

I am proud of the United Kingdom’s commitment to supporting low-carbon, sustainable development – development which will protect all of our interests, particularly in the vulnerable developing world, for a more stable, secure and prosperous future.

This will of course need to be complemented by significant private investment – an opportunity for businesses to play their part in the low-carbon transition. One which I hope the City of London, as a leading financial centre, can capitalise on.

Taken together, I believe, all these elements will provide the needed impetus to help make the transition to a low-carbon economy inevitable, irreversible and irresistible, as my friends at ‘We Mean Business’ have been saying.

Will our expectations be met?

I believe we have cause to be optimistic and I’ll explain why.

Progress since Copenhagen (2009)

Those with a more pessimistic outlook will point to Copenhagen, back in 2009. Although I wasn’t there at the time, I believe there were some positive outcomes from that COP that provided a basis for the subsequent negotiations, even if it didn’t deliver all that one might have hoped for.

But we are in a very different place now.

Following the Copenhagen COP, large amounts of political pressure were applied AFTER the negotiations to secure the Copenhagen Accord that gathered pledges from 53 countries.

But today, still one month out from COP as I’ve already mentioned, we have seen more than 150 countries come forward with their contributions. Those countries include major economies like China, India and Brazil, and many more that did not pledge in 2009 – and together they represent 85% of global emissions.

These countries have offered their contributions voluntarily, in a way that was determined at a national level.

Outside of the formal climate negotiating forum, the UNFCCC, just last month countries signed up to brand new Sustainable Development Goals in the UN, which intrinsically link tackling climate change as part of building a sustainable path for development.

Agreement of these goals shows us that together we can tackle really difficult global problems and come to agreement on collective action to address them.

And the action that individual countries are already taking to address climate change provides further assurance.

China already spends more on renewables annually than any other country and has announced its intention to roll out a nation-wide emissions trading scheme in 2017.

India is implementing an ambitious sustainable energy programme, increasing its national solar targets fivefold to 100 gigawatts by 2020. And, what’s more, in 2014, its solar home systems added more than 21 million US dollars to the rural economy.

South Korea has just introduced an emissions trading system this year, and South Africa is bringing in a carbon tax in the New Year.

All this gives me hope for Paris. And beyond.

At this point, it’s worth me saying a word or two about what Paris itself will achieve.

Paris will not be the end of the road. We will not get a perfect agreement. It is also clear that it will not, in and of itself, secure our goal of keeping average global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius.

But what we can expect is an agreement that keeps that goal within reach. We can expect it to set a good measure of ambition – and the means to ensure that we make progress towards our goal, and to raise that ambition as necessary.

So we are not just focussed on the road to Paris. We are focused on the road through Paris.

Paris will represent the beginning of a global-step-change in efforts to tackle climate change. That change will involve action at national, regional, state, city and business levels.

Which brings me to my final cause for optimism.

Action in the real economy

In short, there is a lot of action happening on the ground. More and more people are increasingly realising that by acting on climate change, by taking the opportunity that clean growth represents – we actually improve our economic security, improve our prosperity, improve our way of life.

Christiana has already referred to the Lima-Paris Action Agenda. Personally, I find it greatly encouraging to hear how so many non-state actors are taking a lead.

Around 20 cities, states and regions are putting a price on carbon. In North America, California’s and Québec’s linked emissions trading systems expanded their coverage to 86% of their emissions. And Ontario has indicated its intention to implement a system linked to this.

As we approach Paris, there has been a growing tide of action from businesses that have weighed the evidence, assessed the risk, and determined that climate action just makes good business sense.

But don’t take my word for it – listen to the speakers who follow me.

Mark Kenber can tell you all about the good work The Climate Group is doing to support the low-carbon transition – working with businesses and other non-state actors to deliver climate-smart strategies and drive low-carbon solutions.

For instance, its RE100 initiative has seen 35 major international corporations committing to source 100% of their power needs from renewable energy.

And We Mean Business is joining up business voices to call for an ambitious deal to catalyse further action.

Zoe Knight can tell you about what HSBC is doing. This includes encouraging their clients – in both the public and private sectors – to issue green bonds.

These help raise vital capital for more sustainable projects and activities, and give investors an opportunity to support the transition to a more sustainable economy.

This is just a small illustration of work that is being replicated all over the world.

Just last week, the White House announced new commitments from some of the now 81 companies that have signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge – to reduce their emissions, invest in low-carbon and deploy clean energy.

And this action is having real-world impact.

As the International Energy Agency reported earlier this year, the global economy has been growing – by 3% last year – without any rise in emissions. In the UK we’ve seen the energy intensity of our economy fall by 5.6%.

All this is a cause for optimism and provides the case for politicians to get the deal done…

Which will, in turn, enable investors to make the decisions we need to help usher in a low-carbon future.

For without the commitment, energy and innovation of private enterprise – across the world – we will not succeed in making the transformation to the global low-carbon economy we need.

I would encourage you to add your voice to those not only calling for a deal, but also welcoming the agreement when it comes.

It will be powerful to hear how a deal helps your decisions. To know what difference it can make in the real world.


So, in conclusion, I think the prospects are good – though we must guard against complacency.

We have secured contributions from the vast majority of the world’s countries. In Paris, we can take these and build on them.

We can agree rules that give them teeth.

And we can put in place a review procedure, to ensure we stay on track to meet our below 2 degrees goal.

We are in a very different place now to six years ago, with much cause for optimism – both in what countries are doing on the ground, and in what non-state actors are putting into practice.

We need to work together and join our voices, now and after Paris.

If we do, we can make a real difference and create the success that we all need. We can power a low-carbon transformation that provides greater security and prosperity for us all.