Gordon Brown: We have fewer than fifty days to save our planet from catastrophe

Share
Related Topics

In every era there are only one or two moments when nations come together and reach agreements that make history because they change the course of history. Copenhagen must be such a time.

There are now fewer than 50 days to set the course of the next 50 years and more. So, as we convene here, we carry great responsibilities, and the world is watching. If we do not reach a deal at this time, let us be in no doubt: once the damage from unchecked emissions growth is done, no retrospective global agreement, in some future period, can undo that choice. By then it will be irretrievably too late.

We must never lose sight of the catastrophe we face if present warming trends continue. Only last week we saw new evidence of the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice. In just 25 years the glaciers in the Himalayas which provide water for three-quarters of a billion people could disappear entirely. If the international community does nothing to assist the rainforest nations in protecting the world's rainforests, the damage, not just to the climate but to biodiversity, to watersheds and to the livelihoods of millions of people will be incalculable.

But the threat is not confined to the developing world. The extraordinary summer heat wave of 2003 in Europe resulted in over 35 thousand extra deaths. On current trends, such an event could become quite routine in Britain in just a few decades' time. And within the lifetime of our children and grandchildren the intense temperatures of 2003 could become the average temperature experienced throughout much of Europe. In Britain we face the prospect of more frequent droughts and a rising wave of floods.

And the threat is not only humanitarian and ecological, it is also an economic one. Three years ago, the Stern Report, which I commissioned, concluded that failure to avoid the worst effects of climate change could lead to global GDP being up to 20 per cent lower than it otherwise would be – an economic cost greater than the losses caused by two World Wars and the Great Depression.

Let us be in no doubt then that this is a profound moment for our world – a time of momentous choice. And we must be the people who act.



This is an edited extract from a speech given by the Prime Minister to the Major Economies Forum in London yesterday

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Dom Joly owns a pig. That thinks it's a dog.  

I'll bow out. Let Wilbur, the pig that thinks it's a dog, bring home the bacon

Dom Joly
 

Forget charging by the page - with books, heart matters more than heft

Katy Guest
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'