Saturday, 27 June 2009
In a landmark speech in London the Prime Minister publically broke with the position of other developed countries by proposing that they provide "around 100 billion dollars" (£60bn) a year to help developing nations combat climate change and adapt to its effects.
It would be used to help fund their measures both to reduce their emissions of the pollution that causes global warming and to defend themselves against the consequences of increasing temperatures and rising seas.
Such financial aid is one of the key Third World demands in the negotiations, but until now no rich country has been prepared to make a concrete response. It has been one of the main reasons why talks convened by the United Nations – which two weeks ago concluded their second abortive session so far this year in Bonn, Germany – have so far failed to make progress.
Setting out the Government's manifesto for international climate change talks in Copenhagen at the end of the year, the Prime Minister said it was essential to cap damaging carbon emissions in order to stabilise global warming.
Speaking at the manifesto launch at London Zoo, Mr Brown committed Britain to paying its "fair share" of the global total and said he expected other developed countries to do the same.
"Over recent years the world has woken to the reality of climate change. But the fact is that we have not yet joined together to act against it. Copenhagen must be the moment we do so," he said.
"If we act now, if we act together, if we act with vision and resolve, success at Copenhagen is within reach. But if we falter, the earth itself will be at risk."
Mr Brown's initiative was immediately welcomed yesterday by Denmark - which will host the crucial final session of the negotiations in Copenhagen in December – and by the key developing world governments of Bangladesh and the Maldives, two of the countries most threatened by inundation from the higher sea levels that will result from global warming.
And it received unaccustomed praise from hitherto critical environmental pressure groups. WWF-UK (formerly the World Wildlife Fund) said Britain should be "loudly applauded for being the first country to begin to break the stalemate that has dogged international talks."
Greenpeace added that "by becoming the first major leader to put a figure on how much money is needed" the Prime Minister "has shown signs of leadership on climate change that have so far been sorely lacking".
Mr Brown will now phone the leaders due to attend a climate change summit in Italy next month – starting with President Obama – to muster support for the plan. The summit, which will immediately follow the annual meeting of the heads of G8 countries, will bring together major developed and developing nations in an attempt to breathe new life into the UN negotiations.
So far European finance ministers have twice refused to come up with a figure for the amount of money they are prepared to offer, fearing that it will only be bid up by Third World countries.
Some goverments, including France, tried to persuade Mr Brown not to make today's announcement. But he decided that it was needed both to revive the negotiations and to provide a realistic proposal around on which the talks could focus.
In his speech, the Prime Minsiter described the £100 billion a year sum as "a working figure" and "a credible number against which countries can develop their plans".
He added that the negotiations "are not moving at the pace we need" and hoped his proposal would "help us move forward towards agreement."