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Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State

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Climate Change

Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge facing the world today. Rising global temperatures will bring changes in weather patterns, rising sea levels, and increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. The UK is acting now to adapt to climate change and to reduce our contribution to its causes.

Climate change is an issue which cuts across a range of Government policies and responsibilities. It's important that different Departments work together as effectively as possible. The Deputy Prime Minister is therefore working with Ministerial colleagues across Government to help ensure that Departments maximise their collective contribution to tackling climate change.

In 1997, the Deputy Prime Minister was a European Union negotiator at the Kyoto convention on climate change. Kyoto imposed a responsibility on developed countries to cut their overall greenhouse gas emissions on the 1990 level by 5% by the year 2010. This varied for each country, with the European average level agreed at 8%. For Britain, this meant a reduction of 12½ per cent in greenhouse gases compared to the 1990 level.

We are on course, not only to achieve that target, but to achieve a cut in the region of 23 to 25%. Britain has shown that you can have sustained and continuing economic growth with Kyoto targets.

But the Kyoto Protocol is just a first step, mapping action for the first commitment period (until 2012). If we are to make a real impact on tackling the menace of climate change, we have to go much further.

So, in recognition of his work on the Kyoto Protocol, the Prime Minister has asked the Deputy Prime Minister to work with the Foreign Secretary, the Secretary of State for the Environment, and other Departments across Government on promoting the Government's post-Kyoto agenda.

The Government is proposing that a post-Kyoto agreement should be universal, covering developed and developing countries. It needs to encompass nations such as China and India. During his work on Kyoto in 1997, the Deputy Prime Minister emphasised need to engage with China and India on these issues, and since then he has continued a dialogue with leading politicians from these countries.

A post-Kyoto framework should set a clear stabilisation goal, with targets, with a new framework to achieve it. Such a framework would provide greater future certainty and stability to encourage greater investment in environmentally beneficial growth. There are huge commercial and economic opportunities in the new technologies associated with combating climate change. Environmental sustainability and economy prosperity are two sides of the same coin.

The UK has already shown that tackling climate change is compatible with historically unprecedented levels of economic growth, and our challenge is to continue to create jobs and growth within a sustainable framework.