David Cameron will set out his personal commitment to tackling climate change at the opening of a crunch UN conference on global warming in Paris on Monday, and will pledge support for poorer countries likely to suffer most from extreme weather.
The UK prime minister will meet world leaders including Narendra Modi of India, Barack Obama of the US and China’s Xi Jinping at the talks, but will also hold sessions with representatives of small islands and the world’s least developed countries.
More than 130 heads of state and government will attend the first day of the two-week talks on Monday, instructing their negotiating teams on coming to a deal.
The Paris conference is seen as crucial, as its failure would in effect bring to an end international efforts under the UN to control greenhouse gas emissions. Countries are aiming to agree on financial support to help poor nations to cut emissions and cope with the effects of extreme weather. They also hope to set targets on limiting global emissions that would come into effect from 2020, when current commitments run out.
Cameron will tell the conference he wants “a global deal for a global problem”, with a robust legal framework that would ensure the targets are met. He will call for any agreement to include a long-term goal on avoiding dangerous temperature rises. “This will give certainty to businesses and the public across the world that governments are serious about decarbonising.”
He will set out his priorities for the conference: putting in place a robust legal framework that will require countries to stick to their emissions targets; providing financial assistance for the developing world; and emphasising the role of business in tackling global warming.
Cameron is expected to cite the UK’s own Climate Change Act as a “strong domestic framework” to deal with emissions. The act is being used as a model by some other countries. “I want to see a similarly robust system at the international level,” he will tell the conference. However, the act has been attacked by some Tories.
Critics argue that since the election the government has systematically undermined the UK’s reputation for climate leadership. Support for solar and wind energy has been slashed; legislation on efficient new homes has been weakened; and most recently, the chancellor, George Osborne, cancelled a 1 billion pounds scheme to promote carbon capture and storage.
As part of the legal framework, Cameron endorses the proposed system of a five-yearly review of emissions targets after Paris, which the UN hopes will enable emissions to be cut further in the future, in line with scientific advice. On current emissions pledges, the world is still likely to be in for 2.7C or 3C of warming above pre-industrial levels by the century’s end, according to analyses. Scientists say that 2C is likely to be the limit of safety, beyond which dangerous climate changes will take hold, with droughts, floods, fiercer storms and rising sea levels.
NEO Monitoring Desk