UK's Gordon Brown Urges Nations to Avoid ‘Catastrophe of Unchecked Climate Change’
October 19, 2009 - 8:19 AMAmid fears that momentum for agreement at the December meeting is stalling, Brown urged countries to compromise with one another to strike a new global deal on reducing greenhouse emissions.
Amid fears that momentum for agreement at the December meeting is stalling, Brown urged countries to compromise with one another to avoid "the catastrophe of unchecked climate change."
The British leader plans to attend the Copenhagen summit, intended to cap two years of negotiations on a global climate change treaty, and has called on fellow leaders to join him. So far, few have said they will go.
Brown told a meeting of the world's biggest economies in London that efforts to agree on a new global pact to tackle climate change are a historic test of international cooperation.
"There are now fewer than 50 days to set the course of the next few decades," Brown said.
"We cannot afford to fail. If we fail now we will pay a heavy price ... If we falter, the Earth will itself bet at risk."
Wealthy nations are seeking broad emissions cuts from all countries in a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol on carbon dioxide emissions. Developing countries say industrialized nations should carry most of the burden, and complain that tough limits on emissions are likely to hamper their economic growth.
Brown says both the industrialized and developing world can take advantage of business opportunities in developing new energy sources and improving energy efficiency.
"This is a test of our ability to work together as nations facing common challenges in the new global era," Brown said in a speech to the 17-nation Major Economies Forum. "We have shown this year in our approach to the global economic crisis how cooperation from all can benefit each. Now, we must apply the same resolve and urgency to the climate crisis also facing us."
Representatives from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, the EU, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, Britain and the United States are attending the London talks.
Pressure has been mounting for the U.S. to finalize its position before the December conference in Denmark. The Obama administration says it is tied to action by Congress, where climate bills are slowing moving toward legislation.
Other nations including India, China, Brazil and Mexico have agreed to draw up national programs to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, but have so far resisted making those limits binding and subject to international monitoring in a treaty.
Worries over the U.S. and China have led to mounting pessimism that a deal can be struck in Copenhagen without major policy changes.
"The prospects that states will actually agree to anything in Copenhagen are starting to look worse and worse," Rajendra Pachauri, head of the U.N. scientific panel studying climate change, wrote in a Friday post on the Newsweek Web site.
"Everyone realizes this is a crucial problem that we need to tackle, and everyone realizes that the deadline is a real deadline," British Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said, following initial talks on Sunday. "I think progress is being made."
He said there was "a lot of convergence, a lot of agreement on some of the key questions" between delegates.
President Barack Obama initiated the Major Economies Forum earlier this year as an informal grouping to privately discuss key international problems.
The London meeting is seeking agreement on funding from the developed world for poorer countries, to help them adapt to changes in the earth's climate that threaten to flood coastal regions, make farming unpredictable and spread diseases.
Miliband said that no agreement on annual funding figures had been reached Sunday. Most estimates that hundreds of billions of dollars would be needed every year.
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