The world has less than five years to get carbon emissions under control or runaway climate change will become inevitable, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has warned.
By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
Telegraph, 19 Oct 2009
Telegraph, 19 Oct 2009
Scientists generally agree that the world could keep temperature rises below a dangerous level of two degrees C (3.6 degrees F) if greenhouse gas emissions are halved by 2050.
However a new report from the WWF found this will require a "green industrial revolution" by 2014, with heavy investment in moving from fossil fuels to 'low carbon alternatives' like wind, solar, nuclear and clean coal.
It will also mean switching to electric cars and other green technologies and improving energy efficiency by insulating our homes and wasting less electricity.
The stark warning comes as ministers and officials from around the world meet in London for the Major Economies Forum. The MEF was set up by President Obama to give ministers an opportunity to thrash out difficult issues before the world meets in Copenhagen in December to agree a new deal on climate change.
Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, will be putting pressure on rich countries, including the US, to sign up to legally-binding targets to cut carbon emissions. The Prince of Wales is hosting a dinner to lobby ministers to sign up to innovative new measures to reduce deforestation, including plans to pay poorer countries not to chop down trees.
The WWF said both rich and poor countries need to start investing in renewable energy and encouraging behaviour change among citizens in order to meet the targets.
The report used economic models to calculate how long it would take for a low carbon industry to grow to a point where it is big enough to cut emissions by 50 per cent.
Keith Allott, Head of Climate Change at WWF UK, said any industry will only grow by 30 per cent every year so the world has to invest in a low carbon industry now to allow the sector to grow to a point where it takes over from fossil fuels by 2050.
He said the UK Government's current policy does not provide enough incentives for investing in renewables or saving energy.
"Clean industry sectors can only expand so far, so quickly. If we wait until later than 2014 to begin aggressively tackling the problem, we will have left it too late to ensure that all the low-carbon solutions required are ready to roll out at the scale needed if we intend to keep within the world's remaining carbon budget," he said.
"This report is a compelling reminder of the scale of effort and the speed of action needed if we're going to make the global transition towards low and zero carbon economies before it's too late."
In a separate report think tank the New Economics Foundation said it will cost the world up to £2.5 trillion to deal with the consequences of climate change like floods, drought and water shortages by 2050. However "rapid decarbonisation' such as replacing fossil fuels with renewables, will avoid up to £1.3 trillion in environmental costs.
The International Panel on Climate Change recommends that the world cuts carbon emissions in half by 2050 to stand a good chance of keeping temperature rises below two degrees C.