The road to UNFCCC COP 18 and beyond - Energy and Climate Change Contents

1  Introduction

1. In 1992 154 countries joined a treaty to "cooperatively consider what they could do to limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and to cope with whatever impacts were, by then, inevitable."[1] This was called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

2. In 2011 the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) of the UNFCCC in Durban, South Africa, agreed the "Durban Platform for Enhanced Action".[2] This launched a new process within the UNFCCC: "to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force […] applicable to all Parties".[3] WWF-UK described this as a "major breakthrough" as "for the first time, all countries have agreed to be brought under one legally binding framework to address climate change."[4] It is expected that this new agreement will be adopted at COP21 in 2015, and will be implemented from 1 January 2020. A new Ad Hoc Working Group is currently preparing the framework for negotiations.

3. The UK's ambition to reduce its emissions by 80% by 2050, legislated for in the Climate Change Act 2008, shows climate leadership—rather than trying to do the minimum the UK and the EU are sending out the right signal that this should be a race for increased ambition.[5]

4. The Committee heard from Professor Sir David King, former chief scientific adviser to the Government, that one of the key assets the UK has is the consensus among all three major political parties on the need to manage climate change. As pointed out by Sir David, "One of the saddest things about the development of the political situation around climate change in the United States is that it has been politicised, and one of the great advantages of the British system is that we have all three major parties fully in agreement on managing the issue of climate change." [6]

5. The EU needs as many allies in its negotiating position as possible. Australia is a valuable new ally, as it will bring a group of other nations with it. However it is critically important to foster alliances with Brazil, China, India and South Africa. The key issue for these economies and other developing nations is finding an equitable solution to climate change.[7]

6. The UK Government has not engaged sufficiently with the public on the details of how the UK's emission reduction targets could be achieved. For example, more could be done to convince the public that decarbonising electricity generation and electrifying transport will, in the long term, be financially beneficial. Sir David commented that "We need a clear statement from the Cabinet that this is the right way forward.".[8] This is partly because the UK's North Sea oil resources are depleting and the country will have to turn increasingly to potentially costly imports. This message needs to come from Government.[9] In addition, as well as benefiting the UK economy, this would give "muscle" to the UK's negotiating position.[10]

1   UNFCCC, Background on UNFCCC: The international response to climate change, Back

2   UNFCCC, Establishment of an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action Back

3   UNFCCC, Establishment of an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, Article 2 Back

4   Ev 74 Back

5   Q 85 [Sir David King] Back

6   Q 101 [Sir David King] Back

7   Q95 [Sir David King] Back

8   Q 92 [Sir David King] Back

9   Q 92  Back

10   Q 93  Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 25 July 2012