The UK government’s vision for a global climate deal

Speech by Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey setting out the UK government’s new vision for a global climate deal in Paris 2015.

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

The Rt Hon Edward Davey

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In 15 months time, the world will gather in Paris to secure a new legally binding global climate change agreement with emissions reductions commitments from all countries.

This is a pivotal moment.

It’s not quite the world’s last hope.

And it won’t be the end of the story.

But failure in Paris would see our chances of limiting climate change to manageable levels go down and the costs of doing so go up.

We are already having to play catch-up.

Global emissions are on track to be, by 2020, someway short of the most cost effective pathway for keeping climate change to below the 2 degree rise the scientists judge is needed to avoid the most catastrophic effects.

And if we do not reach agreement in Paris the vector of action needed becomes increasingly steep with each passing year;

And the economic cost increasingly expensive.

So everything we can humanly do between now and then to make an ambitious agreement in Paris possible must be done.

The science is clear – we can no longer indulge in denial – and we do not have the luxury of prevarication.

The more we see the effects of climate change already happening around us, the more we understand the future risks.

For the UK, the main direct risks from climate change are likely to come from flooding and disruption of services.

But we are also an open trading nation and our prosperity is inextricably linked to world markets.

More extreme climate change impacts in other parts of the world – from food and water shortages – to the mass migration of people fleeing the worst effects – these are our problem too. And they will cost us.

In my view, only those with the hardest hearts and the meanest minds would be prepared to gamble their children’s future given what we already know.

Nobody with even the most rudimentary understanding of managing risk would conclude that doing nothing is an option.

And in reality the solution to climate change – the transition to low carbon economies – actually provides us with opportunities for progress that can unlock benefits to people around the world.

This has the capacity to drive humanity forward on a positive path in many profound ways.

Not just through the onward march on technology and invention catalysed by the right agreement.

Not just through new more efficient and healthy ways of living that a low carbon economy can provide.

But the mere act of the Governments of the world, the businesses of the world, the people of the world coming together as one to tackle a shared problem, would set an example for the future.

That we can unite – and we can overcome the most complex and demanding of problems.

If we have the will.

And that is at the crux of what I want to talk about today – unity of purpose.

Unity of purpose here at home, in our domestic politics and civil society – and increasingly our business community – as Aviva who are hosting us here today can attest to.

And the same unity of purpose is increasingly evident in many countries across the world – including the key heavy carbon economies of the US, China, India and here in Europe.

So let me start with that international picture.

International momentum

For the very first time we have the key ingredients in place that give us a real chance of a truly global deal.

And while the negotiations will undoubtedly be challenging, I judge the prospects of a comprehensive climate change deal to be the best since we first began this journey many decades ago.

Yes, we have had raised expectations before and yes, there have been disappointments in the past.

In 2009, at Copenhagen many felt that momentum was lost – and with that faith in the international process.

But over the past few years, momentum has shifted decisively.

If a legally binding international agreement is the top-down requirement – to provide stability, certainty and an equitable rules-based framework -

What we are seeing, increasingly, is bottom up climate change action – with national climate change legislation proliferating, carbon pricing mechanisms spreading and new policies and regulations being introduced.

Almost 500 climate laws have been passed in 66 of the world’s largest emitting countries.

And it’s not just the rich industrialised nations taking action.

Last year alone Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Kenya, Mozambique and Nigeria passed climate change legislation.

Mexico has followed the UK’s example and put in place a comprehensive climate change law, with medium and long term targets.

Carbon markets – which can reduce the cost of emissions reduction – have now been put in place in over 40 countries – and it is happening at sub-national level as well – counties, states, local governments are acting.

And business is increasingly seeing the opportunity too of a burgeoning global green marketplace that is worth trillions of pounds and growing all the time.

Investment in renewables has outpaced investment in fossil fuels for the fourth year running.

Of course there are regrettable examples of backsliding – from Canada for instance – and worrying signals from Australia and, more understandably, Japan.

And we will work constructively with these countries to draw them back into step with the other major economies. Their targets in the new global deal is the opportunity for them to do so.

But the facts on the ground are changing – and this is putting a global deal within reach.

The big four

Of course no deal can be effective if we don’t have the world’s largest carbon emitters on board – the EU, China, the US and India.

Together they produce around half of global greenhouse gas emissions

And what is most encouraging is what is happening with the so called ‘big four’.

Over the last 6 months I have been to China, India, the US – and of course regularly meet my European counterparts.

The aim has been to build on the consensus for action and reinforce the political will for a deal.

In India, the election of Prime Minister Modi has changed the mood.

And having met him, I believe that he has the will and commitment to duplicate the effective low carbon policies. he implemented in Gujarat across the whole of India – and bring a constructive India to the negotiating table in the lead up to Paris.

Although India is the fourth largest carbon emitter, its emissions per capita are low.

For India, development and poverty reduction must go hand in hand with climate change action.

That is why over the coming months we need to make sure that developing countries are convinced that a deal will be equitable and provide support to those who need it, but especially the poorest and vulnerable, to build climate resilience.

So developed countries must meet their commitment to mobilise $100bn climate finance a year by 2020, to provide support for adaptation, mitigation and the preservation of forests.

The UK’s International Climate Fund of £3.87bn is part of this effort to support developing countries and emerging economies.

In China, President Xi Jinping has been pursuing his vision of ecological civilization that softens its tread upon the earth.

The vision embeds climate action in its national planning process and created tough sanctions for officials and companies flouting environmental legislation.

And China has set tough new targets for coal consumption.

China is working to decarbonise its energy demand and is already the world’s largest non-fossil fuel energy producer.

And is one of the world’s leaders on sub-national carbon markets.

And in the US, since Kyoto in 1990, many have seen the United States as part of the problem rather than the solution.

But many US states have been acting where Federal Government has previously not done so.

More than 20 states have energy efficiency targets and over 30 have set renewable energy targets.

And now under President Obama, the Climate Action Plan of 2013 should enable the US to get back on track, including by proposing robust emissions regulations for power plants, so filling the gap at the national level.

In June I met with Todd Stern, US Climate Envoy, in Washington, and although there remain political obstacles to overcome, I have no doubt about the commitment of the US to achieve agreement in Paris.

Historically the EU has been one of the world’s leading advocates of climate change action.

And has been living up to its reputation by exceeding its Kyoto obligations with emissions set to reduce by more than 20% by 2020.

The challenge for Europe is to maintain its course, despite the obvious economic problems in the Euro Zone.

The Green Growth Group I set up to build consensus around a low-carbon, pro-growth policy position and consequently a strong negotiating position for Paris, now boasts 13 member states representing 75% of Europe’s population, 85% of Europe’s GDP and 60% of the votes in the Council of Ministers.

And I am confident that next month, when the EU meets to agree the new 2030 Energy Framework, we will see the fruits of that effort in an ambitious deal for a domestic greenhouse gas target of at least 40%.

Today also marks a new first for European co-operation with Britain, France and Germany co-ordinating our first Climate Diplomacy Day.

With events taking place in our diplomatic missions in over 20 countries.

Making the case for climate action, making the case for a comprehensive agreement in Paris in 2015 – and showcasing the economic and business benefits of transition.

So India, China, US and the EU are all demonstrating in their national and regional policies, the kind of action we need to formalise in Paris.

And by Lima in December, we need to secure a critical mass of countries pledging to the Green Climate Fund to support those who need it through the low-carbon transition.

Success in Paris is within our grasp.

Success will mean internationally binding rules to track progress, to govern carbon markets and the way emissions are measured;

The compliance regime should be one puts rewards ahead of punishment.

An open, transparent process with regular reviews so that we can increase our ambitions overtime – as trust is built and technology drives down cuts further.

Action at home

The UK has been at the forefront of helping to shape the right kind of climate change architecture that can work.

We are doing it here at home.

The 2008 Climate Change Act was the world’s first long-term, legally binding national framework for reducing emissions.

Our five year carbon budgets – that will eventually reach out to 2050 – are now being looked at as a potential model in other countries.

The 2013 Energy Act is creating the world’s first low-carbon electricity market.

And we are attracting record amounts of investment in renewables and our low carbon business sector is booming.

In renewables, almost £29bn of investment since 2010. Delivered.

2013, was a record year - with £8bn invested across the range of renewables technologies.

And going forward we estimate up to £50bn of further renewables investment by 2020.

Only China and the US recorded more new-build renewables asset finance in 2013 than the UK.

Electricity generation from renewable sources has doubled since 2010 and now supplies over 15% of the UK’s electricity.

We’re now a world leader in offshore wind – with more installed offshore wind capacity than the rest of the world combined.

A world leader in wave and tidal technology – with real opportunities for tidal stream and tidal lagoon power to come on stream over the next decade.

And this success story has not happened by accident.

It has been built on the skill and expertise of our scientists and engineers.

It has required UK business and international investors to recognise the costs of failure and the benefits of change.

Our business community has recognised that decarbonisation and securing long-term prosperity go hand in hand.

From the savings that can be made through energy efficiency to the growth prospects through the supply chain.

Today’s event shows just how engaged the business community is.

And it has been sustained by a strong, vocal and committed network of NGOs, pressure groups and activists who have been instrumental in sustaining political will and public acceptance.

In this I do pay tribute to the previous Government.

Because the political consensus constructed around the 2008 Climate Change Act was not a foregone conclusion.

And it means that Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats all have a stake in making it work.

And that is why I am particularly proud of the 2013 Energy Act – the ‘how’ to the Climate Act’s ‘what’.

Because it enjoys a similar level of cross-party political consensus.

One of the reasons I have been able to argue the case for low-carbon growth so strongly with my European counterparts is that I have been confident about the support our position receives at home.

The United Kingdom united is stronger abroad, and more able to achieve what is in our national interest.

The path to Paris

And that is why today, we are publishing the Coalition Government’s vision for an agreement at Paris next year and I am inviting Labour Party and the other political parties to endorse it.

Because whatever Government is formed after the election in May, the Paris negotiations will be one of the most pressing issues it will have to face.

We must show the rest of Europe, and the rest of the world that we speak with one voice on this.

And we have the backing of our businesses and other prominent organisations.

In the document released today we showcase the views of many.

From the CBI to the TUC, from the CEOs of major companies like BT, Siemens, Nestle to the CEOs of major NGO’s – Greenpeace, Save the Children, WWF.

Our vision is of a successful agreement in Paris that reflects the environmental and economic realities.

That reflects individual countries ability to make contributions, is sensitive to their industrial development and the standard of living of its people.

We need an agreement that is credible – and fair – with emissions reductions from all countries – but with commitments that reflect the ability of countries to make reductions.

The most advanced economies have to make the most ambitious commitments – reflecting their responsibility for emissions and their capacity to absorb change.

The EU should show a lead by agreeing this year an ambitious 2030 framework with a domestic target of at least 40%.

The G7 and G20 should follow suit – so that by the time we reach Paris, there are no surprises and we are clear about what is on the table.

A global agreement needs a rules-based system that tracks progress, creates trust and allows us ratchet up ambitions to meet the science.

And as I have suggested, we must mobilise support for the poorest countries so that there is no doubt that climate change action and development can go hand in hand.

Above all else, we will need to maintain the political will to secure an agreement in Paris.

And we will need to sustain momentum after Paris too.

Because Paris is not the end of the road.

This is an inter-generational challenge that will require successive political generations to renew their commitment.

But for the next 15 month, I am determined that we expend every effort, and work with determination.

Across Government.

Across the parties,

In partnership with business and civil society.

To make sure we take this crucial step – and drive further action building on the action that has already been taking place across the world – with a global, comprehensive, legally binding climate change deal in Paris.


Published 9 September 2014