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Davey: climate concern is justified, but there is ‘reason to be hopeful’

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Ahead of flying out to attend climate change negotiations in Doha, energy secretary Ed Davey has said there is still time to keep a global temperature increase below 2 degrees, despite the publication of a report that suggests it is increasingly unlikely.

Davey said that although the world is “plainly not on track” to keep a 2 degrees temperature rise in check currently, the target is “still within reach if we can muster the political will”.

He added, “Anyone who engages seriously with the science is right to be concerned.”

This comes after data published in the Nature Climate Change journal suggested that because global carbon emissions were continuing to follow a high end emissions scenario, it was “even less likely” that global warming would remain within 2 degrees.

I am worried that the risks of dangerous climate change are too high on our current emissions trajectory”, one of the report authors, Corinne Le Quere, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, told the BBC.

We need a radical plan.”

But ahead of his and energy minister Greg Barker’s trip to Qatar to attend the climate change conference, Davey outlined how there was “reason to be hopeful”.

We have seen serious action by many countries, including some of the big emitters”, he said.

Legislation is moving forward in the world’s major economies.  And there are important changes in the real economy.

Global investment in renewables outstripped fossil fuels for the first time last year. Rising resource scarcity and climate stress means that sustainable, resilient production makes good business sense.

Businesses are now setting the agenda for governments.”

The publication of the government’s energy bill last Thursday, which Davey described as “good for the planet”, went some way to providing certainty to potential renewable energy investors in the UK.

But a report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) last month described how measures to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere do not currently go far enough to avoid a global temperature rise of below 2 degrees.

UNEP said that carbon dioxide levels have increased by 20% since 2000, to a point where greenhouse gases are now around 14% above the level required by 2020 to avoid dangerous temperature warming.

However, its report added that the internationally-agreed warming target is still achievable, but that urgent action needs to be taken, citing the climate negotiations in Doha as key.

And Davey added that although the international process “may be slow” currently, it is delivering.

Since Copenhagen, countries representing 80% of global emissions have made economy-wide pledges of action”, he said.

We agreed at Durban to work to a 2015 deadline for a new legally binding global deal, and we are aiming for step-by-step progress towards that deal, beginning in Doha.

I want to see concrete actions to reduce emissions before that, adoption of a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol with robust accounting and transparency arrangements for those not in Kyoto, and to give developing countries comfort on the continuing provision of finance.

Tackling dangerous climate change is a complex task.  But if we act we can still avert climate change’s worst impacts. Two degrees is still within reach if we can muster the political will.”

Further reading:

Doha climate talks underway as Davey urges a ‘global deal’

Desertec chief: Doha climate talks could lead to a ‘dangerous impasse’

UN claims global emissions reductions are not yet sufficient

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