Brown sets out his climate stall for Copenhagen

Posted by jamie — 26 June 2009 at 3:46pm - Comments

It's been a long time since there were polar bears at London Zoo, but the famous attraction still houses many other species which are threatened by the effects of climate change. So I can't help but wonder whether this fact registered with Gordon Brown (himself an endangered species) as he stood up at the zoo to present his blueprint for a global climate action plan.

The polar bears' old habitat has apparently been converted into a simulacrum of the Australian outback and it was beside this arid landscape that Brown chose to lay some groundwork for the international climate talks in Copenhagen this December. According to my colleague Doug who went along, jokes about it not being the outback but a vision of the Pennines in 50 years time buzzed around the crowd.

Brown is proposing a global climate fund which will provide money from developed countries to developing ones to help them mitigate and adapt to climate change. This is by no means a new idea, but now there's a number on it - a 'working figure' of £60bn per year by 2020, derived from a combination of private funds, public purses and the carbon markets. Let's hope it gets worked up rather than down.

A significant sum, but small change compared to the billions (or is it trillions now? I've lost track) which have been thrown at the banks and corporations of late, and almost certainly not as much as countries further down the economic ladder would be hoping for. There was also no mention of exactly how much the UK would contribute, only that it would be a "fair share".

Still, it's something and without sums of at least this magnitude, the chances of a global consensus at Copenhagen are fairly slim. Brown also mentioned his desire to bring aviation and shipping emissions into the deal, while climate secretary Ed Miliband is creating a war room to encourage ministers to push the Copenhagen agenda on every overseas visit.

Our glorious leader has so often waxed lyrical about the UK being a driving force on the international stage when it comes to climate change (and yet actually done so very little) that it's easy to be fiercely cynical. Tell us another one, Gordon, we've heard this all before. Yet maybe this means there's change in the air - it might be more fun to write witheringly scathing blog posts slagging off another ham-fisted initiative, but I'd rather Brown rolled up his sleeves and did his bit to pull the global community towards some kind of meaningful decision.

Of course, grandstanding at world summits won't mean anything without other leaders and governments joining the party. And there is the small matter of a raft of domestic policies - new coal power stations, expanding airports, feeble investment vis a vis renewable energy sources - which make a nonsense of any UK commitments vis-à-vis reducing our emissions.

Still, baby steps.

About Jamie

I'm a forests campaigner working mainly on Indonesia. My personal mumblings can be found @shrinkydinky.

Follow Greenpeace UK