Brown warns of climate change catastrophe

A A A

Gordon Brown warned today of a "catastrophe" for the planet if action to tackle climate change is not agreed at forthcoming UN talks on global warming.

Speaking to representatives of 17 countries at the Major Economies Forum, convened as part of efforts to secure a deal at the UN Summit in Copenhagen in December, the Prime Minister warned of the economic, human and ecological impact of a failure to cut the emissions driving up temperatures.

The costs of failing to address global warming would be greater than the impact of the two world wars and the Great Depression, he said.

He told the forum, gathered in London for the second day of talks, that he believes a deal in Copenhagen is possible.

But with fewer than 50 days to go before the UN talks, he warned them that countries were not making progress quickly enough to reach agreement.

He called on world leaders to work together directly to achieve a deal which sets out binding targets for rich countries to cut their emissions, action by developing nations and finance to help the poorest countries cope with the impact of climate change.

"We can't afford to fail. If we fail, we pay a heavy price," he warned.

"For the planet, there is no plan B."



Mr Brown said: "If we do not reach a deal at this time, let us be in no doubt: once the damage from unchecked emissions growth is done, no retrospective global agreement in some future period can undo that choice.

"By then it will be irretrievably too late.



"So we should never allow ourselves to lose sight of the catastrophe we face if present warming trends continue."



He warned that the people least responsible for climate change - those in the world's poorest countries - were being hit hardest and first, with the effects of drought, floods, loss of farming and fishing yields and the spread of disease already killing 300,000 people a year.



He said President Mohammed Nasheed of the Maldives held a cabinet meeting underwater on Saturday to highlight the catastrophe facing his country, and the South Pacific nation of Kiribati was requesting international aid to evacuate the islands before they literally disappear.



But Britain too would be hit by the impacts of climate change in the coming decades, including heat waves similar to the 2003 event which led to the deaths of 35,000 people across Europe, droughts and flooding.



He said some impacts of climate change were already "inescapable" but action to cut greenhouse gas emissions could slow the rate of change to a pace which would enable people to adapt.



Mr Brown, who has pledged to attend the Copenhagen talks in person to secure a deal and has urged other leaders to follow suit, acknowledged the "formidable political constraints and challenges" in securing a deal, but said momentum was building towards success at the negotiations in December.



But with negotiations not moving fast enough - and with only one more week of UN talks in Barcelona before the Copenhagen meeting - he urged leaders to step in to break the impasse.



Progress must be made on efforts to provide cash for poor countries to develop without their emissions spiralling up to the levels seen in the West and to adapt to the impacts of climate change.



And binding targets for the midterm - such as 2020 - are needed from developed countries, along with action from developing nations and co-operation on low-carbon technology such as solar power and methods of trapping and permanently storing carbon from power stations.



The Copenhagen summit aims to secure a new deal to cut the global greenhouse gas emissions which are driving climate change.



Developing countries want richer nations, which they point out are responsible for the vast majority of harmful emissions historically, to commit to tougher targets - and not just in the long term.



They also want pledges of more cash to help them become greener themselves and to adapt to meet the challenges posed to them by the changing climate.



At the same time, fast-emerging economies such as China and India, which are among the biggest polluters in the 21st century, are under pressure to set out concrete proposals to limit the damage caused by their own rapid development.



There will be no formal outcome from the MEF meeting, which concludes today.



But the meeting, attended by representatives of 17 major economies and several nations particularly at risk from the impacts of rising temperatures, aims to narrow the gaps between countries on a number of issues to help progress towards a new deal.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...