Prescott calls for voluntary climate change agreement

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The Independent Online

Lord Prescott today called on countries to agree on principles for voluntarily fighting climate change amid widespread recognition that a legally-binding deal on global warming will not be struck at the upcoming UN talks in Mexico.

The former deputy prime minister, who was involved in negotiating the original climate treaty in Kyoto, warned the legal framework for tackling climate change was "falling apart" and that countries should be allowed to go ahead with their voluntary schemes, based on basic principles of fairness and transparency.

And he said the world should "stop the clock" on the Kyoto treaty, the first phase of which expires in 2012, to give time to build trust between countries and negotiate the details of a long term agreement on tackling climate change.

Last December's UN climate talks in Copenhagen were regarded in many quarters as a failure because they did not secure the hoped-for legally binding global deal on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Instead, amid recriminations and last minute negotiating, world leaders agreed a voluntary deal, the Copenhagen Accord, in which countries set down pledges for curbing emissions in a bid to keep global temperature rises below 2C.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne has already said there will be no legally-binding deal on tackling emissions in the next round of UN climate talks starting on Monday in Cancun, Mexico, but said he wanted to see progress that took the world "within shouting distance" of an agreement.

Today Lord Prescott, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly's rapporteur on climate change, said: "The legal framework is falling apart. Let us be practical, recognise that it has happened, and go for an alternative."

Lord Prescott said the voluntary carbon emissions targets suggested by countries should be express per head of population, to make them fair, while agreement should be reached at Cancun on universal international methods for verifying emissions cuts to make sure nations live up to their pledges.

And rich countries should provide funds for developing nations to adapt to climate change and low-carbon growth.

"There will be no grand legal agreement next week - as we had in Kyoto - but let's do our best to make some real and realistic steps for mankind.

"We need a common sense approach that will keep us moving towards a sustainable, safe, clean and healthy planet for our children and our children's children."