'Recklessly slow' climate talks as greenhouse gases hit new high


Ministers from nearly 200 countries beginning talks on a new global warming treaty have been warned that progress in dealing with climate change is “recklessly slow”.

Lord Stern, the British economist who wrote the key report on the financial implications of climate change in 2006, says in a study released tomorrow that the world is on course for “immense risks” from the rate at which greenhouse gases are being emitted.

His report is aimed at the negotiators at the UN climate conference in Doha, Qatar, who are trying to lay down the ground rules for a new, comprehensive climate treaty involving all nations, which would be signed in 2015 and come into force in 2020.

But figures just released show that total world emissions of the greenhouse gases causing global warming, such as carbon dioxide, are now at an all-time high of more than 35 billion tonnes annually and as present rates are likely to hit 50 billion tonnes over the coming years – which will be far too high to hold rising temperatures to the two-degrees safety threshold.

“The world is heading in a difficult and dangerous direction,” Lord Stern says in his report, written with two colleagues from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics. “A range of estimates based on current plans and intentions arrive at similar conclusions: at best, global emissions will plateau at around 50 billion tonnes of carbon-dioxide-equivalent per year over the coming decades, with a strong possibility they will go much higher. The scale of the risks from these levels of emissions is immense, with likely changes in climate way beyond the experience of modern civilisation.  The overall pace of change is recklessly slow. We are acting as if change is too difficult and costly and delay is not a problem.”

Britain’s Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, was arriving in Doha late last night to lead the UK delegation in the talks, which are scheduled to finish on Friday – hopefully with a work plan set out for the talks about the new treaty.