Miliband: 2020 is year of no return for emissions

Minister's stark warning in run-up to crucial climate change summit

A A A

The world's emissions of the greenhouse gases causing global warming should peak in 2020 and then start to decline, the British Government is proposing in the run-up to the global climate conference taking place at Copenhagen in December.

Emissions from developed nations such as Britain and the US should reach their highest point even earlier, by 2015, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, suggested to other countries in a meeting in Mexico this week, in the first move to make the crucial issue of a "carbon peak" an official target of the Copenhagen agreement.

Emissions of gases such as carbon dioxide have been rising at a far faster rate than was predicted even a decade ago, and research published by the UK Met Office last year showed that the point at which they begin to decline as a whole is absolutely vital in bringing rising temperatures under control.

A few years' delay in the peak can mean the world is committed to a significantly higher rise than would otherwise be the case, and computer simulations by the Met Office Hadley Centre indicate that for every ten years the peak is postponed, another half degree of temperature increase becomes unavoidable.

Hitherto, the issue of the "global peak" has largely remained a theoretical one, but this week Mr Miliband and British officials put it on the table at a meeting in Mexico of the Major Economies Forum on Climate and Energy (MEF), a new, pre-Copenhagen high-level discussion group which has been convened by the US President Barack Obama.

The MEF meetings will culminate in a world leaders' summit on climate change which will take place alongside the G8 meeting in Italy in July, and which will be a critical moment in the push towards a Copenhagen climate deal.

Yesterday Mr Miliband said the issue of a global peak in emissions had so far been "significantly under-emphasised". If it could be agreed, it would "irreversibly break the trend towards rising emissions," he said, adding: "It would show that something had changed. We are arguing very strongly for a 2020 global peak."

Dr Vicky Pope, the Hadley Centre's head of climate change advice, said yesterday: "Even if emissions peak in the next ten years and then decline rapidly, temperatures are still likely to rise to around two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. Every 10-year delay in starting reductions will result in a further 0.5 degree increase in the most likely temperature rise, so the need for action is urgent."

The Hadley Centre's simulations last year indicated a most likely two degree rise with a 2015 peak (and world carbon emissions subsequently declining at three per cent a year to 2050), a 2.5 degree rise with a 2025 peak and a similar decline, and a three degree rise with a 2030 peak. In each case the temperature rise is a best guess - a 50-50 chance - and there are possibilities that it could be lower, or indeed, significantly higher.

All countries, including the UK, must be more ambitious in commitments to cut greenhouse gases, Mr Miliband said, ahead of the launch today of the Government's own manifesto on what needs to be achieved in Copenhagen.

Greater public pressure would play a part in ensuring the politics of negotiating a new deal catches up with the science of what needs to be done, he said. From today the Government is distributing pamphlets setting out the importance of Copenhagen, which will be sent to public bodies such as schools and hospitals, and launching a website www.ActOnCopenhagen.gov.uk.

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

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower