Copenhagen kick-off

The much anticipated UN climate change summit gets underway today as delegates from 192 countries converge on Copenhagen in an attempt to agree global environmental targets.

Billed as one of the most significant conferences the world has ever seen, leaders including Gordon Brown, Barack Obama and China’s premier Wen Jiabao will attend the summit to announce their country’s individual commitments and help reach a deal on reducing the world’s carbon emissions.

However, the fallout caused after last month’s stolen emails from the University of East Anglia have cast a shadow of doubt over the proceedings. The emails, which were written by prominent climate change scientists, referred to a decline in global warming and have since been used by some sceptics to undermine talks.

With arguments over climate change still dominating news pages, a recent report looking at the relationship between the world’s oceans and global warming has sent a warning shot to world leaders meeting in Copenhagen.

The study, which has been led by Professor Chris Reid, from the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS), Plymouth University and the Marine Biological Association (MBA), has found that rising sea temperatures and a reduced ability of the oceans to absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide may be leading to an acceleration of climate change.

Prof Reid said: ‘The picture [the report] paints is an extremely worrying one. Our world is changing much more rapidly than predicted. The consequences for humanity and ecosystems will be drastic unless we not only do something to change the way we live, but actually start to remove carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. We will need to take stronger mitigating action than we had thought to limit global warming and conserve the oceans.’

Last month UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said that a legally-binding agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions was no longer realistic and that the most likely outcome would be a deal on voluntary targets.

While the outcomes of Copenhagen are likely to dominate events, the EU Energy Council will also be meeting this week to deliver a progress report on the proposal for regulation on the security of gas supply and investment projects in energy infrastructure within the EC.

Gordon Brown is today expected to unveil a £12bn ‘efficiency savings’ plan to be implemented over the next four years ahead of Wednesday’s Pre-Budget Report. The report is thought to confirm annual public borrowing of £175bn and will published alongside a Fiscal Responsibility Bill designed to halve the deficit by 2014.

Ellie Zolfagharifard