Brown promises Britain will lead world in fight against climate change

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Monday, October 30, 2006

UK Chancellor Gordon Brown promises that UK will lead the world in the fight against global warming.

The Stern Review, the first about the economic effects of climate change, is published today. Commissioned by the British Government and prepared by Sir Nicholas Stern, former top economist at the World Bank, it forecasts that, if action is not taken now, the world will suffer an economic disaster on an unprecedented scale. 100 million people will be refugees from floods caused by rising water levels, drought caused by the melting of glaciers will affect 1 in 6 of the world's population, up to 40% of present wildlife species will become extinct and the world economy will shrink by 20%.

Sir Nicholas claims that these forecasts are based on the best available scientific evidence about the extent and effects of climate change. He does not claim absolute certainty, only a high degree of probability that the world is facing economic catastrophe if action is not taken immediately. An expenditure of just 1% of the world's wealth now could avert it. Spending £1 now could save £5, or even more, in the future.

The effects of global warming can be contained, says the Review, if about 1% of the world's GDP is invested in reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases. This investment must take place over the next 10 to 20 years otherwise the effects of climate change could be disastrous on a scale comparable to the great wars and the slump of the first half of the last century. There has to be action at national, regional and international levels.

The Review concludes that the actions to be taken include emissions trading, doubling investment in research and development of low carbon energy sources, curbing deforestation and supporting adaptation in poorer countries by developing crops appropriate to the changed climatic conditions.

The Stern Review shows that the scientific evidence for global warming is "overwhelming", said Prime Minister Blair. Chancellor Gordon Brown said that Britain will take the lead in persuading the world of the seriousness of the problem. All the major political parties in Britain have been discussing climate change.

The Review is attracting a great deal of media attention. Salient among the views being reported are those of a number of experts including the following:

Professor Bill Mcguire, Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre who says that Stern has greatly underestimated the effects of global warming.

Martin Livermore, The Scientific Alliance asserts that "climate is not driven primarily by human use of fossil fuels" and that the money to be spent is unlikely to have much effect: it would be better spent on the world's poor.

Pia Hansen, European Commission Spokeswoman says doing nothing is not an option, we must act now.

Simon Retallack, UK Think Tank IPPR - this (Review) removes the last refuge of the "do-nothing" approach on climate change, particularly in the US.

Tom Delay, The Carbon Trust - The Review offers a huge business opportunity.

Richard Lambert,CBI Director Genera says that a global system of carbon trading is urgently needed.

Charlie Kronick, Greenpeace - now the government must act and, among other things, invest in efficient decentralised power stations and tackle the growth of aviation.

Concurrently with the publication of the Stern Review, the United Nations reports that emissions from the industrialsed world are still rising. There has been a 2.4% increase in emissions across 41 industrialised countries in the first four years of this century. Britain, France and Germany are near to achieving their Kyoto Protocol targets, but the US is the biggest polluter and its emissions have been increasing.

The Kyoto Protocol calls for a reduction of 5% of pollutants below 1990 levels. There has been a reduction of 3.3% since then but this has been the result of the collapse of industry in Eastern Europe which has counterbalanced the increases in the rich countries. The Stern Review suggests that the Kyoto targets are too modest.