Stern Warning Sets UK and SA on Course to Save Planet

Cape Times (South Africa), November 13, 2007 | Go to article overview

Stern Warning Sets UK and SA on Course to Save Planet


BYLINE: Paul Boateng

The snow and glaciers of Mount Kilimanjaro are in retreat as I saw for myself last month when my son and I climbed the mountain. But as Sir Nicholas Stern, the distinguished economist, said a year ago: "There is still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, if we act now and internationally."

He made this statement in his Review of the Economics of Climate Change, commissioned by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, it was the most comprehensive of its kind ever carried out.

The Review concluded two uncomfortable truths: there can no longer be any doubt that climate change affects the basic and essential elements of life around the world, including access to water and food; and the economic cost of inaction can equate to as much as 5-20% of global GDP, whereas the cost of action can be limited to only 1% of global GDP.

Because of the Industrial Revolution, the UK, like many other developed nations, shoulders much of the historical carbon burden. We realise that we cannot expect developing nations to come on board unless we set credible targets for ourselves and take action to meet them.

We also recognise the importance of ensuring that action to address climate change and moving to a cleaner economy is compatible with the imperative of economic growth and the Millennium Development Goals so important to the African continent.

For the UK, the Stern Review was a wake-up call to the challenge of climate change. It has helped open the way for an ambitious and comprehensive domestic framework to tackle climate change. A cornerstone of this is the Climate Change Bill, which will be introduced to Britain's Parliament this month. It will write into law the UK's targets for further cuts in carbon dioxide of at least 20% by 2020.

With this bill, we are pre-empting international agreement so that we are able to provide business certainty on how carbon will be constrained, allowing business to plan and invest with more confidence and also to incentivise further energy efficiency savings.

This bill will help us remain on track to not only meet our emissions targets set by Kyoto, but to almost double them.

Trevor Manuel's recognition of the importance of the Ministry of Finance and the Budget process in promoting environmental good practice, sets a wonderful example too in this regard.

The existing United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Kyoto Protocol provide the overall framework for international action, but we now need to build on this to enhance global action proportionate to the scale and urgency of the threat. …

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