Summit - Our future
in their hands?
The Government of the Maldives holds an underwater cabinet meeting to attract
international attention to the dangers of climate change.
The current international agreement on climate change, the
Kyoto Protocol, will expire in 2012. In December 2009, more than 180
countries will join a United Nations meeting in Copenhagen, to try to agree a new
international deal to tackle climate change.
It is vital that we secure a strong deal in Copenhagen because we will all be
affected by dangerous climate change. For
example, steep increases in global sea levels will cause severe flooding in many
countries. In Asia, 94 million people could be
left homeless, leading to large-scale migration. Scientists have warned that the Maldives, the lowest-lying nation on earth, could be uninhabitable in
less than 100 years. Ahead of the UN climate
change conference in Copenhagen, President Mohamed Nasheed held a cabinet meeting under
the sea in order to draw the attention to the issue of global warming and highlight the
seriousness of the threats faced by the Maldives.
The President (pictured above) said:
We are trying to send our message to let the world know what is happening and what
will happen to the Maldives if climate change isn't checked". Asked what would happen if Copenhagen fails, the
President said, "we are all going to die".
There are many worrying aspect of climate change: the world faces severe food shortages
and poorer countries will be worst-hit: drought in parts of Africa could reduce harvests
by 50% by 2020. Experts predict that up to a
third of known plant and animal species will be at risk of extinction and entire natural
environments, like coral reefs and rainforests, would be under threat. As the rainforests disappear, so does the
possibility of discovering cures for many of our most deadly diseases. Glaciers could shrink by up to 60% and the rivers
they feed could start to dry up. This would affect drinking water supplies for around a
sixth of the worlds population.
There are alarming signs that these changes are already well underway. Storms, floods, and droughts are happening more
often and are more extreme and Arctic sea ice is melting faster than previously predicted. A warming Arctic may cause the release of large
amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, which will have the potential to cause further
global warming and have huge global implications (methane is a greenhouse gas about 25
times more potent than carbon dioxide).
There are large volumes of solid methane frozen in ice beneath the Arctic Ocean seabed and
these methane hydrates may melt if ocean temperatures increase. One possible result of this is that, because
methane hydrates provide structure to the seabed, if they destabilise a seabed collapse
could occur. In the past, such destabilised
underwater landslides from the Norwegian continental slope have produced tsunamis that
have reached Scotland. Similar events today
could interrupt the pipeline delivery of natural gas across the North Sea to the UK. To read an article from The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology
on Arctic changes, click
To read about the potential impacts of climate change on the UK specifically, The UK Climate Projections give climate
information for the UK up to the end of this century. Please
As well as environmental and economic
aspects of climate change, there is growing recognition that there will be significant
impacts on human health. For example, in the UK,
it is predicted that there will be an increased frequency of severe coastal and river
floods, both of which can have severe impacts on health.
Analysis of more recent river flooding in the UK shows that mental health problems are the most important health impact among
flood victims due to experience of personal and economic loss and stress.
Climate change is disproportionately
affecting poor people around the world, despite their having contributed little to global
emissions, and I have urged the Government to take our fair share of the urgent action
necessary to help the world's poorest people who are already suffering a range of impacts
linked with climate change.
In October, I wrote to Ed Miliband MP, Secretary
of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, regarding the current debate
from the developed world to help poorer countries adopt green technologies and protect
their people from the consequences of climate change.
Click here to read my letter and here
to read the Ministers response.
It is intended that an agreement on climate
finance will form part of the business in Copenhagen and the Government has
proposed that developed and developing countries
should work together on a global figure of around $100bn per annum by 2020 to help
developing countries address climate change. Analysis
by McKinsey for GLOBE puts the finance needed at
US$90-140 and Ban Ki-Moon, in welcoming the EU commitment to support $100bn a year for
poor countries to cut emissions and adapt to climate change, added that the sum would need
to be scaled up in the future.
I am pleased at the Governments commitment on climate finance. They have stated that they do not intend to divert money for tackling
poverty to the climate change fund. However, this commitment has not been agreed by the
main opposition party.
Our future in our own hands
We need to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature increase to
no more than 2°C. Scientists have worked out
the maths: emissions MUST peak and start to decline in the next 10 years and by 2050, they
must be 50% less than they were in 1990.
I urge constituents to join me in signing up to the 10:10 campaign and
pledge to personally cut your carbon emissions by 10% next year. People can calculate their own
emissions by using the Act on CO2 online
carbon calculator, where there is also tailored advice on reducing individual and
household carbon emissions, which will also save money.
To assess progress in meeting the 10:10 pledge it is essential that we
assess our baseline carbon footprint before the end of 2009!
Please see: http://actonco2.direct.gov.uk/actonco2/home.html for more details.
Climate change is the biggest threat humanity faces and it is extremely important that all
countries sign up to a strong global deal at the UN meeting in Copenhagen. Our Government has said that it is committed to
pushing for that global deal. However,
whatever Governments agree, the task of reducing green house gas emissions will
require the active participation of all of us. We
can help tip the balance by our own actions and by working together. We have a small but diminishing window in which to
take the action needed to limit global temperature increases to no more than 2°C.