The European Union’s Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas called for greater urgency and ambition in international negotiations on a new global climate agreement. He warned that it represents the world’s last chance to prevent climate change from reaching dangerous levels.
Commissioner Dimas made the remarks in a statement to mark World Environment Day, which has climate change as its theme.
Commissioner Dimas’s statement reads as follows:
The new global climate agreement that is due to be finalised at the Copenhagen climate conference in December is the world’s last chance to prevent the dangerous, perhaps even catastrophic, levels of climate change that are projected by scientists to occur as early as 2050 – well within the lifetimes of over a billion young people alive today.
Last week a study for the Global Humanitarian Forum underlined the human tragedy climate change already represents. Today climate change seriously affects 325 million people every year, kills about 315,000 people a year through hunger, sickness and extreme weather, and causes global economic losses of over $125 billion annually, the study estimates. These numbers are projected to rise substantially over the next 20 years.
Governments around the world have rightly recognised that the recession is no reason to slow the battle against climate change. Indeed, governments in Europe and elsewhere are designing the stimulus measures our economies need so that they both create jobs and tackle climate change by investing in energy efficiency, renewable energy and other low-carbon technologies of the future.
To prevent dangerous climate change, the international scientific consensus tells us that global warming must be kept to less than 2°C above the pre-industrial temperature. This translates into around 1.2°C above today’s level since warming of 0.76°C has already occurred, and some studies suggest the amount of greenhouse gases already emitted makes it likely that further warming of up to 1°C is unavoidable.
Time is not on our side.
Urgent and ambitious global action is therefore imperative if we are to prevent dangerous climate change that threatens to cause enormous human suffering, undermine economic progress and poverty reduction, and trigger potentially catastrophic environmental changes.
This need for urgency and ambition must be reflected in the pace and content of the international negotiations to prepare the Copenhagen agreement.
The discussions under way in Bonn this week and next must take account of that. They need to inject greater momentum into the talks themselves and turn the draft negotiating texts now on the table into a blueprint for a sufficiently ambitious Copenhagen agreement.
The developed world must lead the way. To get global emissions onto the right track to prevent dangerous climate change, developed countries must start by cutting their collective emissions to 30% below their 1990 levels by 2020, in accordance with the science evidenced by the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The European Union has shown its leadership and determination by putting in place legislative measures to achieve a 20% reduction and by committing to scale this up to 30% if other countries agree to do their fair share.
Now our partners need to show leadership, too. Some developed countries have yet to announce emission targets, while those targets on the table so far risk falling well short of the collective 30% reduction needed. Greater ambition is essential.
We cannot win the battle against climate change unless developing countries, and particularly the big emerging economies, step up action to limit their rate of emissions growth. But only by setting a strong example themselves will developed countries succeed in convincing the developing world to join the global effort that Copenhagen must launch.