Rising emissions lessen authority

The UK is risking the loss of its international authority on climate change because of its poor performance in cutting its own emissions of greenhouse gases.


The UK is risking the loss of its international authority on climate change because of its poor performance in cutting its own emissions of greenhouse gases said Lord May of Oxford, President of the Royal Society, ahead of the House of Lords debate on climate change.



In a short statement Lord May said: “It is very difficult to criticise other countries, such as the United States, who will not meet their [Kyoto] targets if we are unable to meet our commitments. Indeed, emissions by the United States have actually declined over the last two years, although are still some 20 per cent above 1990 levels.



“The most recent figures from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs show that UK greenhouse gas emissions are currently 12.6 per cent below 1990 levels, compared to a target of a 12.5 per cent cut to be achieved in 2012. But emissions have risen for the last two years, and if this trend persists the UK will miss its Kyoto target.”



In his statement Lord May responds to Tony Blair’s comments at the meeting of G8 energy and environment ministers held in London last week. The Prime Minister stated: “the blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge, but all economies know that the only sensible long-term way of developing is to do it on a sustainable basis.”



Lord May said: “The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that countries are not doing enough to adapt their economies so that they reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and the developed world may already be incurring larger costs in dealing with the consequences of climate change.



“Warmer oceans are causing more intense tropical storms and nobody can say that global warming played no part in the unusual ferocity of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. The estimated damage caused by Hurricane Katrina alone was equivalent to 1.7% of US GDP. This is an insight into the economic cost to the developed world.



“But the cost in the developing world will be even greater, particularly in the more vulnerable parts of the world. Research published earlier this month suggests that a drop in rainfall in Ethiopia and surrounding countries over the past few years, where 6-10 million people are already facing serious food shortages, is caused by a rise in sea surface temperatures in the southern Indian Ocean. In the developing world, climate change is about life and death, not just domestic economics.



“The fact is that, given the accelerating pace of the climate change escalator we have set in motion, future generations will be asked to make even greater sacrifices if we do not act now to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. What we need is courage from our political leaders both within and outside Government, to take the actions necessary to reduce our emissions.”