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Letter to Stop Climate Chaos from Prime Minister Gordon Brown

21 September 2007

Dear friends

The new few months are a crucial time for the international effort to tackle climate change.   I welcome your contribution to the debate now taking place on climate change in the international arena.  As you know I share your view that climate change poses the most urgent challenge to humankind - a challenge that threatens not only the environment but international peace and security, prosperity and development.

Over the last year the momentum for international action has been gathering, galvanised by the clear messages on the science and economics. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios indicate that global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) have to be reduced to very low levels, well below half of levels in 2000 by the middle of the twenty-first century.  The IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report due in November will provide a further scientific basis for policymakers.  The economic analysis provided by the Stern Review, which I commissioned when Chancellor, shows that the costs of inaction will greatly outweigh the cost of action. 

Our core goal this year is to achieve at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Bali in December the launch of comprehensive international negotiations for a post-2012 climate change agreement.  The UNFCCC is the appropriate forum for a binding international agreement.  The Government is working hard to achieve this goal, and I believe the international community can succeed in reaching it.

This year we have seen important progress.  At the G8 leaders summit in June we saw for the first time a clear commitment among all G8 leaders to a UN-based process.  Leaders called for strong early action and sent a clear signal on the need to advance international negotiations on a post-2012 framework later this year in Bali.

The next three months in the lead-up to Bali will see a vital series of meetings.  The Gleneagles Dialogue meeting held in Berlin this month provided a forum for valuably straight talking on the shape of a post-2012 framework, and reinforced the key role of the global carbon market.  The UN Secretary-General’s High Level Event on September 24th will represent the first time that Heads of State and Government, and their representatives, from right across the globe will have the opportunity to focus together on the climate challenge.  This is highly significant, underlining the international community’s commitment to address this issue in the widest and most representative forum, and demonstrating the seriousness with which the threat of climate change is now viewed - not least, the threat to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The Secretary General’s meeting immediately precedes this year’s United Nations General Assembly, and will provide a key stepping stone towards Bali. 

It is with great regret that I am unable to attend the meeting, as it falls during the opening of the Labour Party conference.  Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will represent the UK at the Event.  He will use the meeting to put forward our vision of a post-2012 UNFCCC framework on climate change, one which can meet the challenge of securing our objective of limiting global temperature rises to no more than 2oC.  

Following the UN meeting, the US-led Major Economies Conference will provide an opportunity for further dialogue between the economies that use the most energy and generate the majority of GHG emissions. The meeting will support and add momentum to the UNFCCC process by progressing discussions on some of the elements that the UK and EU believe to be key to a future agreement, such as technology transfer and a long-term emission reduction goal.  I also hope the meeting will send the strongest message yet on the need to launch comprehensive negotiations on a post-2012 framework in Bali.

As its core, I believe a post-2012 framework must contain the following elements:

o A long-term goal of reducing global carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2050 on 1990 levels.  Such a goal can set the scale of ambition which a post-2012 agreement needs to meet, and can act as a ‘yardstick’ to assess progress on mitigation and to inform discussions on country commitments.

o Deeper absolute emission reduction commitments by all developed countries.  The EU has already agreed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020 compared to 1990 as part of a comprehensive international agreement and made a firm independent commitment to achieve at least a 20% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 in any case.  We want other developed countries to follow suit.

o Further fair and effective contributions by other countries.  Many ideas are already under discussion within the UNFCCC and elsewhere such as the sectoral targets you mention.  We need to recognise the efforts many developing countries are already undertaking and build on these and create incentives for them to reduce the greenhouse gas emission intensity of their economic development.

o Extending the carbon market, including innovative and enhanced flexible mechanisms. The existing Clean Development Mechanism and emissions trading schemes such as those in the EU and elsewhere provide the foundation of an emerging global carbon market driving real investment into low carbon technologies.  The recently produced UNFCCC report on existing and potential investment flows suggests that the overall level of finance needed for climate change mitigation in 2030 is $200-210bn.  The carbon market is already worth around $30billion and by 2030 the market could provide up to $100bn of the necessary financial flows, driven by deep developed country targets. No other proposed system currently has the potential to produce such incentives and assistance to global emissions reduction.  

o Increasing cooperation on technology research, development, diffusion, deployment and transfer.  Even with  a strongly functioning carbon market we need to look at further incentives for investment in low-carbon technology.  The UK is working to promote technology and investment cooperation through a range of initiatives, including supporting the World Bank-led Clean Energy Investment Framework.  The Framework is a vital means of accelerating and scaling up public, private and carbon finance for investment in low carbon energy and adaptation.  In the last budget I announced the creation of a new £800m international window of the Environmental Transformation Fund, which will help developing countries to access clean energy and adapt to climate change and support reduced emissions from deforestation. This is a significant downpayment on future developed country assistance which again I hope will be matched by others. 

o Enhancing efforts to address adaptation, including risk management instruments, finance and technologies for adaptation.  We need to scale up support and develop new mechanisms to assist especially the poorest developing countries in adapting to the unavoidable effects of climate change.  DFID is developing its work in this area and we are supporting significantly scaled up efforts in the World Bank and regional development banks.

o Addressing emissions from international aviation and maritime transportation.  Emissions from international aviation and maritime transportation are growing rapidly. For international industries, international solutions, and specifically global trading schemes, are the best solution.  We are therefore pursuing these in the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and International Maritime Organization (IMO) respectively. However until a truly global solution can be found, inclusion of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme as soon as possible represents the best multilateral option available for this sector.

o Reducing emissions from deforestation and enhancing sinks by sustainable forest management and land use practices.  With around 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions coming from deforestation, an international framework needs to include efforts to reduce this.  We have already promised £50m to support sustainable forestry in the Congo Basin as part of the Environmental Transformation Fund.  The Fund has the potential to provide further assistance in other parts of the world.

         As you know, the UK is committed not just to seeking international agreement on a post-2012 framework of this kind, but to showing leadership in how we can build the low carbon economy that such an agreement will require.  Our Climate Change Bill will make the UK the first country in the world to put our emissions targets into a statutory long-term framework, with binding targets to reduce our CO2 by 26-32% by 2020 and by at least 60% by 2050.  The system of five-year carbon budgets we propose to adopt in the Bill mirrors the current international timescales of the Kyoto Protocol and EU Emissions Trading Scheme. I believe that the Bill will make a significant difference to the way policy is made, by providing a framework for programmes and policies that will deliver carbon savings and requiring us to assess all policies for their carbon impacts.  It demonstrates that the UK is committed to taking its responsibility for reducing global emissions, and we believe it will help unlock progress towards a new global agreement.

         I have no doubt that building a low carbon economy represents a challenge to the UK - not just to the government, but to every British business, community and citizen.  But it is also a huge opportunity - an opportunity to build new jobs and industries from the low carbon technologies of the future, such as renewables and carbon capture and storage; for our economy to become more productive as it becomes more energy efficient; and to improve the quality of life as we find less polluting ways of transporting ourselves around.  I am convinced that a low carbon economy means a better society for this generation as well as for our children and grandchildren. 

The urgency of this challenge is now very clear.  The UK, along with our European partners, will therefore be using the few remaining months before Bali to promote our vision of a comprehensive UN framework.  Currently this is the only comprehensive model on the table which will generate the commitments and financial flows necessary to move us towards a global low carbon economy and avoid dangerous climate change.  It is essential that the Bali Conference recognises the scale of the problem, the affordability of measures to mitigate the threat and the imperative for early action, if the sustainable economic development to which all countries have a right is to be achieved.

The UK, along with our EU partners, is strongly pushing for the launch of negotiations on a global and comprehensive post-2012 agreement at Bali.  But action won’t happen without strong international political and popular will.  You and your NGO partners therefore have a valuable role to play in helping to generate the necessary political and popular will and to accelerate action on all levels - individual, national and international. I hope that you will be able to mobilise your international partners and networks to build a broader constituency for change, and, through your international campaigning and pressure, that you can work with us to contribute to these aims.
Yours sincerely,

Gordon Brown

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