Darling urges action on climate change

Chancellor Alistair Darling today urged the world's most powerful finance ministers to treat climate change with the same urgency they gave to the world economic turmoil.

He issued his plea at the start of a meeting of G20 finance ministers gathered in St Andrews, Fife.

The Chancellor also urged them not to hold back on efforts to put economies back on a growth track.

As he delivered his climate change warning, protesters gathered in St Andrews.

Mr Darling told his fellow finance ministers the first session of their gathering would be devoted to climate change.

"This is an urgent problem," he told them.

"Just as it took a crisis to get countries to come together 12 months ago, I hope that now we can show the same degree of commitment and urgency to try to deal with this problem.

"I'm perfectly well aware that round this table there are different views - there are arguments we need to have, discussions that need to take place, and some tough negotiating.

"But it really is imperative that when we reach the end of the day, that we have shown that we have made some real progress in dealing with what is a real and urgent problem."

Mr Darling said every effort would be made to reach agreement in advance of the Copenhagen climate summit in December.

And he warned: "It is really important that we as finance ministers are engaged in this.

"If there isn't an agreement on finance. If there isn't an agreement about contributions to make sure we can deal with this problem, the Copenhagen agreement is going to be much more difficult."

The finance ministers sat at tables arranged in a hollow square, with officials and deputies behind them.

The seating arrangements put the Chancellor and Bank of England governor Mervyn King directly opposite to and face to face with their US counterparts Timothy Geithner and Ben Bernanke.

Opening the session, Mr Darling said economic growth would be discussed later today.

Until confidence levels had returned there was still much uncertainty and risks that needed to be negotiated, he said.

But Mr Darling told his fellow finance ministers: "Just as we have shown in the last 12 months that we can make a real difference when we are determined to do so, I think we also need to agree a framework that will allow us to ensure over the next decade, because with growth will come jobs and the prosperity upon which the people we represent depend."