The Diplomatic Dispatch

The British Ambassador to Sweden blogs on The Local

Climate challenges after Doha – some light amidst the gloom

The latest round of international talks on climate change ended last weekend in Doha. One of my previous postings was at the UK Mission to the UN so I have firsthand experience of how exhausting and difficult these huge international negotiations can be.

From a distance, the outcome from Doha looks like a modest step forward. In short, the Kyoto Protocol will continue past this year, and we have up until 2020 to get a new legally binding agreement for the period after 2020, when the Kyoto Protocol has expired

However, we still need countries to do more and be more ambitious about reducing their emissions if we are going to avoid irreversible climate change and prevent devastating global warming.

As things stand, the world is plainly not on track to keep the global temperature increase from climate change below two degrees centigrade, which is generally regarded as global warming’s danger threshold.

The UK, with Sweden and other EU partners, will be working over the next year to ensure the next round of discussions yields more progress and that we play our part in lowering global emissions.

There are rays of light amidst the gloom.

We have seen serious action by many countries, including some of the big emitters. Brazil has reduced deforestation by around two thirds since 2004.  Korea is spending two per cent of its GDP on the low-carbon economy.  China has embedded energy efficiency and renewables targets in its latest five-year plan, and is testing carbon markets in seven of its provinces.

In the UK, our Carbon Budgets provide a target of an 80 per cent emissions cut by 2050.  We are acting on energy efficiency and smarter infrastructure.  The UK also recently introduced an Energy Bill which will give investors and industry the framework and the certainty they need to deliver the huge infrastructure investment that the UK’s energy sector requires.

We are on track to meet the milestones set by the EU Renewables Directive and to deliver enough renewable generation capacity to source 30% of the UK’s electricity by 2020.

In the EU, the UK will also continue to argue for increasing ambition, going from a 20% emissions cut to a 30% target by 2020, with a renewed focus on the benefits the Green Economy will provide. We’re delighted that the Green economy will be a focus of the next meeting of UK, Nordic and Baltic Prime Ministers, in Riga early next year.

Our focus on the Green economy in the UK is underpinned by important changes in the real economy.   According to Bloomberg, global investment in renewables overtook that in fossil fuels for the first time last year. We are seeing new renewable energy technologies break into and compete successfully in the market place.  Solar PV has averaged 42% annual growth globally over the last decade; onshore wind has averaged 27%.

In some markets, solar technologies have come down in price by as much as 75% in three years, and are now cheaper than fossil fuels, for example, in many parts of Africa and South Asia.  Companies such as Unilever, Vodafone, Walmart and Kingfisher are setting ambitious targets to make their supply chains more sustainable.  This isn’t just a marketing ploy: rising resource scarcity and climate stress means that sustainable, resilient production makes good business sense.  As we saw in Rio earlier this year, businesses are now increasingly setting the agenda for governments.

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