Tackling warming not 'British plot' against poor nations


CLIMATE CHANGE DEAL:THE BRITISH government’s chief policy adviser on climate change yesterday dismissed claims by the Copenhagen-based Schiller Institute that the drive to deal with global warming was a “plot by the British empire” to deny economic development to poor countries.

John Ashton, a physicist and former diplomat, said: “If we ever wanted to find an issue that tells us more what have in common, it’s climate change. Because if we do not address it, people won’t be able to pursue their own narrower interests [in achieving economic growth].”

He was speaking at a press briefing on the first day of a scientific conference on climate change, which is being attended by some 1,600 researchers from 80 countries – including many leading experts on global warming and its potential impacts.

“We haven’t begun to close the gap between what science says we need to do and what can be done,” said Mr Ashton. “And now we’re in the early stages of the most serious economic crisis for several generations, when politicians are focusing on one thing – jobs.”

He said a sea level rise above one metre or up to two metres “is not even remotely taken seriously in major economies”, yet it would be “catastrophic” and would become major driver of insecurity this century.

One of the problems in making progress was that politicians “are not very good at understanding the message coming from scientists. Faced with uncertainty about what is likely to happen, a politician will say, ‘come back and tell me when you know and then I’ll think about it’.”

But Mr Ashton said the effort to reach a global agreement on how to tackle climate change at the UN conference in Copenhagen next December “needs to be based on a low-carbon recovery” of the world economy, and this “has to be part of the solution to the crisis”.

Prof Katherine Richardson of the University of Copenhagen said governments had “spent a lot of money minimising the risk of al-Qaeda attacking airports”, but, she asked, “what are they doing about minimising the risks to the planet [from global warming]?”.