Gordon Brown is preparing to offer more money from Britain to help the world's poorest countries combat climate change in an attempt to break the deadlock at the Copenhagen summit.
Aides to the Prime Minister, who has already announced £1.5bn over the next three years for African and other nations affected by global warming, said he is also planning to contribute to a separate £15.3bn global fund to reduce deforestation. A payment of similar proportions would mean an extra £1.2bn coming from British taxpayers.
However the Prime Minister faces questions about how Britain will find the money when it has a £178bn budget deficit in the current financial year. The £1.5bn will come from the existing budget of the Department for International Development. Any top-up would be new money which would have to found despite the squeeze on public spending signalled in last week's pre-Budget report.
Mr Brown will travel to Copenhagen today, as will the Prince of Wales, who is due to give an impassioned speech when he opens the Presidents-and-Prime-Ministers section of the meeting, which will see 120 world leaders come together in the Danish capital between now and Friday.
He will call on the 192 countries taking part in the conference to seize the moment and "step back from the brink" of climate change.
The interventions from Britain's heir to the throne may turn out to be timely, as yesterday the negotiations about constructing a new world climate treaty, which have not been going well, became enmeshed in grandstanding and brinkmanship, and were held up for five hours after a protest by African countries about the course the talks were taking. Although negotiations later resumed, the lost time was regarded by many observers as something the process could not afford.
Prince Charles will stress just how important the Copenhagen moment is when he opens the "high-level segment" of the meeting, in a ceremony with the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, and the Kenyan Nobel Prize-winning environmentalist Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and a friend of the Prince.
Describing climate change a "a risk multiplier", he will tackle head-on the argument of climate sceptics such as the Danish professor Bjorn Lomborg – although he will not refer to him by name – that you should not devote major resources to tackling global warming as there are other more pressing social problems such as poverty, food security and water stress.
Such issues, while priorities in their own right, are inextricably linked with climate change, which will simply multiply their risks if not tackled, the Prince will say. He will tell delegates that while mankind has the power to push the world to the brink, mankind also has the power to bring it back into balance.
He will also address an issue in which he has taken a long-standing personal interest: deforestation. Currently accounting for about a fifth of all the carbon dioxide emissions causing the global climate to warm – as much as world transport – deforestation is a major theme of the talks, and the Prince will remind delegates that the battle against climate change cannot be won unless the battle against deforestation is won as well.
While the Prince cannot address the talks themselves and their problems, Mr Brown most definitely can. His early trip to Denmark is to talk about the vital issue of "the numbers" – just what are the targets for cutting emissions of CO2 which countries should sign up to, and how much money should the rich developed countries be prepared to offer the developing countries to move towards low-carbon economies. These are matters which can really only be decided by heads of state and government, and Mr Brown wants as ambitious a deal as possible.
In the House of Commons he told MPs: "This financial agreement must address the great injustice that is climate change: that those hit first and hardest by climate change are those that have done least harm. In fact, 98 per cent of those [countries] most seriously affected and dying live in the poorest countries that account for only 8 per cent of global emissions. So it is essential that we honour our responsibility for helping meet the costs they face in adapting to, and mitigating the consequences of, climate change."
He will tonight begin an exhausting round of one-to-one meetings with other leaders in an attempt to narrow differences between rich and poor nations. His first talks will be with leaders from Africa, hard-hit small island states, the European Union and Mr Ki-moon.
Aides said Mr Brown, who has a long track record on rallying the world to tackle poverty in Africa, is trusted by developed and developing nations alike after also winning plaudits for his rescue of the banks. They said he was going to Denmark early after realising at the G20 summit in London in April that it took days to prepare the ground for a deal at such international gatherings.
Mr Brown said: "The agreement at Copenhagen must be ambitious, global, legally binding within months and be consistent with a maximum global warming of two degrees and be the fairest financial settlement for the poorest countries."
Developing countries want a continuation of the present international climate treaty, the 1997 Kyoto protocol, which does not commit them to anything, but imposes legally binding emissions cuts on the rich countries – except the US, withdrawn by President George Bush in 2001.
Developed countries such as Britain want a new treaty which would bring the US back in, as well as emerging economies such as China and India, which are now huge CO2 emitters themselves.
Under threat: Species in peril
It's not just the polar bear. Many animal and plant species besides the increasingly-iconic white predator are threatened by global warming, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature pointed out yesterday at the Copenhagen Climate Conference. The new list is:
Ringed seal Reproduction is being disrupted as the Arctic ice upon which they live and breed melts.
Leatherback turtle Nesting beaches are washed away by rising sea levels and changing ocean currents, while rising sand temperatures during egg incubation lead to disproportionately lower numbers of males.
Emperor penguin Predicted to lose sea ice platforms for breeding and face changes in food availability.
Quiver trees Losing populations in the equator-ward parts of their distribution range due to drought stress.
Clownfish Their coral reef habitats are under severe threat from ocean acidification.
Arctic foxes Face habitat loss, competition and predation from Red Foxes, and changes in the population cycles of their prey.
Salmon Salmon's freshwater habitats face warming and altered seasonal flows. Food availability in their marine ranges may shift. Salmon highlight the effects of rising temperatures on both freshwater and marine ecosystems.
Staghorn corals Severely impacted by bleaching and disease. They highlight impacts of rising sea temperatures and increasing ocean acidification due to climate change.Reuse content