Tuesday December 4, 2012
UN Climate Change Conference: Towards a global climate deal
By SIMON FEATHERSTONE
The United Nations Climate Change Conference is underway in Doha, Qatar. More than 190 nations are represented, including representatives from Britain and Malaysia. The latest analysis by the UN Environment Programme shows that current pledges to 2020, even interpreted in the most favourable way possible, would only get us halfway towards a 2°C 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”.
Intense rainfall, more extreme weather and wetter winters will significantly increase Britain’s existing vulnerability to flooding. In Malaysia, flooding threatens not only to affect people’s homes, but also to hit the operation of businesses and even critical infrastructure systems.
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.
So yes, I do want people to understand the scale and urgency of the challenge. 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.
In Britain, 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 – 34% and 80% cuts from 1990 levels.
And our energy policy, including the reform of the electricity market is expressly designed to bring on significant new investment in low-carbon energy infrastructure. Within the European Union, 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.
But to address the global issue, of course we need global solutions. Britain is helping developing countries shift onto low-carbon, climate-resilient pathways, providing £2.9bil (RM14.1bil) of climate finance through our International Climate Fund. As of March 2012, Britain has programmed and allocated £1bil (RM4.88bil) in “fast start” funding. We are calling other donors to do similarly and quickly.
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 2C above pre-industrial levels. 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 remains a realistic timetable, but 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. 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. 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. Malaysia has also pledged its emission intensity reduction target, and I am encouraged by the policy and legislative package that are being undertaken to deliver the reduction target by 2020.
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 reflect the economic realities of the 21st 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 2C goal.
A global deal will be important for setting the framework for developing low-carbon economies that will boost growth and investment. We have the opportunity to create the clarity, certainty and confidence that business seeks. The Confederation of British Industry reported recently that Britain’s low-carbon sector grew 2.3% in 2010-11, to carve out a £122bil (RM595bil) share of a world market that’s worth £3.3tril (RM16tril). Here in Malaysia the momentum on green technology is also picking up with yet another successful IGEM 2012, and further provision of RM2bil to the Green Technology Financing Scheme announced under the recent national budget.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations are complex, and I am under no illusion that Doha will be easy. But Britain is in Doha with a clear mission to deliver meaningful progress on the Durban package. We are doing this to ensure that we can address the risks that climate change poses to us all, to our security and prosperity. And take advantage of the opportunities that the transition to a low-carbon economy offers for growth and investment, in Britain, Malaysia and worldwide.
Simon Featherstone is British High Commissioner to Malaysia