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PM’s letter sets out way forward on climate change

The Prime Minister has written a letter to the chair of the Liaison Committee, Dr Alan Williams MP, setting out the way forward on climate change after Copenhagen.


Gordon Brown is to give evidence to the Liaison Committee on 2 February 2010.


Read the PM’s letter

Dear Alan,

Ahead of my appearance at the Committee on Tuesday I thought I would write to set out my reflections on the way forward for international action on climate change following the Copenhagen conference last month.

Over the next few weeks the initial phase of the Copenhagen Accord will be completed. If those countries which agreed the Accord in Copenhagen inscribe into it the commitments they made in the run-up to the conference - and I believe it is very much in the global interest that they should do so - the international community will have taken the first steps towards an historic transformation in the trajectory of global emissions. For the first time, the world will see, collected together, strong mitigation commitments by countries representing more than 80% of global emissions.

If those commitments are then implemented to their maximum potential, they could lead to emissions peaking by around 2020 or before, representing the crucial first step towards the level of reductions required to hold global temperature increases to under 2 degrees. We will still have to do more - and we must review this in 2015 as the Accord states. But these commitments will nevertheless represent a turning point in the global battle to combat climate change.

It is important that the European Union maintains its commitment to move to a 30 per cent reduction in emissions if others are also ambitious. I believe it is strongly in the Ell’s economic interest to incentivise low carbon energy and technology investment through this goal. I am pleased that others such as Japan and Australia have maintained their ambitious targets and plans as well. So in the coming period I propose a dialogue among those developed countries whose final ambition level is still to be determined to ensure that together we make the greatest possible emissions reductions.

The Copenhagen Accord represents important progress. Agreed by a wide and representative group of countries and supported by many others, the Accord sets out significant advances, including on the commitment to two degrees, on finance, and on measurement, reporting and verification. It is a valuable basis on which to build further international co-operation, and I welcome the fact that many countries who were not directly involved in its negotiation are now associating themselves with it.

Yet at the same time we must all learn the lessons of the Copenhagen conference. The process up to and at Copenhagen was clearly flawed. We all need to work to ensure that the UNFCCC is an institution that can bear the huge expectations we are putting on it. I am conscious in particular of the need to find new ways of working that build trust among all parties, and that recognise in particular the views and circumstances of smaller and more vulnerable countries. The UN Framework Convention remains the vehicle for an agreement, and commitment to the Accord is a tool for achieving that, not an alternative to it.

But we must recognise too that climate change will not wait for such agreement - which will take time to negotiate and more time to enter into force. Every year of delay means a greater build-up of greenhouse gases, and more acute impacts on the most vulnerable.

Every year of delay raises the cost of acting. So following Copenhagen I believe there are now two urgent tasks. We must all accelerate action to tackle climate change; and we must drive forward the Long-Term Cooperative Action and Kyoto Protocol negotiating tracks to a UN agreement at COP16 in Mexico. The British Government’s end goal remains a legally binding outcome.

The Copenhagen Accord allows us to get on with the critical business of tackling climate change in each of our countries. In the UK we published our comprehensive Low Carbon Transition Plan last year and are now implementing this right across the economy. Through a major expansion of renewable and nuclear energy and the deployment of carbon capture and storage, by increasing energy efficiency in homes and businesses, by developing a new smart grid and decarbonising transport, the UK is on course to the 34% reduction in emissions by 2020 and 80% by 2050 that are now embodied in UK law and in the ‘carbon budgets’ of every government department.

As ail countries implement their own domestic plans, the global opportunities for green growth will be enormous. Low carbon policy will create demand for low carbon technologies, creating jobs and business opportunities, reducing costs and stimulating innovation. Already a $3 trillion global market, I am convinced that the benefits will flow not just to developed economies but to emerging and developing ones as well.

Second, to enable this investment and growth to be shared among all countries, we must get the Fast Start Finance agreed in the Copenhagen Accord flowing as soon as possible through existing channels. Finance is needed urgently for mitigation, adaptation, technology development and transfer and capacity-building. The UK is currently working with other donors to ensure this. But we need also to begin a dialogue between developed and developing countries on how climate finance will be governed in the future. We must move forward swiftly on the architecture, including the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund, based on the principles of equity and effectiveness agreed in the Accord.

The need for immediate action is particularly important in forest protection, where Copenhagen saw the emergence of new partnerships between developing and developed countries. I very much welcome the initiative taken by France and Norway with rainforest countries to move forward the REDD+ discussions. We cannot afford to delay in implementing the far-reaching commitments on reducing deforestation which many countries have made, and to utilising the finance which has been committed.

The same is true in the field of adaptation. Copenhagen reinforced the urgent need for the poorest and most vulnerable countries to be assisted now in developing and implementing climate-resilient development plans. We must use the fast start funding to do this.

Third, we need to set up a High Level Panel to examine long-term funding sources, including new and additional public finance, private finance and carbon markets. Fast start funding is important but it is only a start. We need to begin now the process of ensuring a trajectory from 2013 towards the 2020 goal agreed in the Accord of $100bn pa in finance flows to developing countries.

Fourth, we must agree together and then start to implement the details of the transparency architecture agreed in the Accord, including new inventories, reporting, and the processes of international consultation and analysis. I will be discussing with our partners in Europe how we can assist in these processes.

Finally, we must increase co-operation between governments and with industry on the development and deployment of low carbon technologies. Affordable technologies are particularly vital to enable developing countries to pursue the economic growth required to lift their people out of poverty while respecting the ecological limits of the planet.

Building on the valuable collaboration established over the last year we must move forward urgently on the Technology Mechanism agreed by the Accord.

At the same time as we get on in these ways with taking immediate action to combat climate change, we must also re-establish the negotiations towards COP16 in Cancun at the end of this year. To this end the UK will do all we can to support Denmark’s and Mexico’s roles as Presidents of COP15 and COP16 and in establishing trust between all the parties. We look forward particularly to the ministerial meeting proposed by Chancellor Merkel.

In the longer term I believe there is widespread recognition that we need to strengthen the negotiation processes and institutional machinery of the United Nations, and we look forward to discussing how this might be done with other parties.

Let me assure you of the British Government’s unstinting commitment both at home and internationally as we embark on this vital year in the global battle to tackle climate change.
I am placing copies of this letter in the Libraries of the House.

Yours sincerely

Gordon Brown