The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) opened today in Paris, and is the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties (CMP) to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
The objective of the conference is to achieve, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, a binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.
Carbon dioxide levels have increased globally by 40 per cent since the start of the industrial revolution, and are now at their highest for 800,000 years. Since the last 19th century, global temperatures have risen by about 1°C largely due to human activity. 2014 was the warmest year on record, and 2015 is set to be warmer still due to a strong El Niño on top of global warming. Of the top 15 warmest years, 14 are since 2000. Heatwaves in Europe that would occur twice a century during the early 2000s are now expected to occur twice a decade.
Innovation and economies of scale are driving down the cost of low-carbon energy. Over 11,000 firms in the UK are involved in the low-carbon economy, employing 460,000 people and with an annual turnover of £122bn (equivalent in size to our food and drinks industry). The global market for low-carbon goods and services is worth more than $5.5 trillion, and is growing at over 3 per cent per year.
The UK is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050, and we are pushing for a strong global deal at Paris COP21 to cut emissions and create a sustainable low-carbon economy. Last year, UK emissions were cut by 8.4 per cent – one of the largest reductions on record – and since 1990 our emissions are down by around 30 per cent.
I am proud to be part of a Department, and a Government, that is committed to tackling climate change, one of the most pernicious issues of our time.