Gordon Brown: 'The environment must be centre of policy worldwide'

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Indy Politics

For too long too many governments thought their objectives began and ended with economic prosperity and jobs.

But I believe that the world needs a new paradigm that moves the environmental challenge to the centre of policy.

Over the next few days in America, starting at the UN, I will be setting out detailed and substantive ways that governments can meet the challenge of climate change.

So today at the UN in New York, Britain will call for the first global emissions trading scheme to cut carbon emissions.

Tomorrow at the G7 meeting in Washington I will tell the world's richest countries that Britain will invest in a private- public institute for new research into alternative sources of energy and new environmental technologies - and ask other countries to join us in a global network researching into better uses of energy.

On Saturday at the IMF meetings, we will agree further details of a new facility to deal with the shocks that poor countries face from rising oil prices - and ask oil-producing countries to contribute more.

On Sunday at the World Bank meetings Britain will call for a new $20bn (£11bn) facility for diversifying the supply of energy to developing countries.

And this weekend we will announce details of a joint British- Brazilian-South African and Mozambican initiative incentivising bioethanol production that will cut fuel emissions.

Like our initiative with Norway on carbon capture, these practical substantive initiatives show that Britain, under Margaret Beckett's leadership, is increasingly working globally to build a new consensus on what needs to be done.

We can and should demonstrate that economic growth, social justice and environmental care can and must advance together. For years no international consensus has been possible that recognises how our global duty of stewardship to the environment can be discharged while delivering economic and social progress.

But I believe that global economic goals and global environmental goals are converging and can reinforce each other and that the basis for a new global consensus which all countries should be challenged to join lies in new detailed and substantive policies.

First, higher energy prices will and must now encourage the development of new cleaner sources of energy. So we are sponsoring new work on renewable sources of energy and will continue to provide more incentives for their introduction. And setting new standards for energy efficiency with new standards this month to make new buildings 40 per cent more efficient than in 1997.

Second, we can now demonstrate that scientific advance can bring forward new environmentally friendly technologies that can provide jobs as well as wealth for the future.

So Britain, which already spends £800m a year on environmental research, backed up by tax breaks and capital allowances, will extend this as worldwide environmental research and advance gains the higher priority it deserves.

We can also show that new market-led mechanisms such as carbon trading can change the behaviour of companies and communities. That means extending the European Emissions Trading scheme - including to support investment not just in Europe, but in developing countries.

And we must demonstrate the benefit of public investment in the environment. And that includes the provision of finance for developing countries to diversify their energy supply. And in the current review of the UN we must show how the World Bank and UN can work more effectively together to invest in tackling worldwide environmental changes.

But decisions made by national governments must be matched by individual actions. We all have a responsibility to do what we can to tackle environmental degradation. So I believe what we do as a community nationally and internationally must be matched by a new sense of personal responsibility. This will of course mean difficult decisions. But just as we introduced the climate change levy in Britain - against continuing Conservative opposition - we are prepared to take the necessary long-term decisions to meet the environmental challenge.

Gordon Brown is Chancellor of the Exchequer