Brown warning over penalties for failure in Copenhagen

By Liz Stephens

The prime minister has warned today that failure to commit to sweeping climate change solutions at the forthcoming Copenhagen summit will be disastrous for the environment.

Speaking to Newsweek magazine, Gordon Brown said this was the last change to undo “catastrophic damage” to the environment.

The prime minister will be attending the summit at the Danish capital himself, a role normally taken by environment ministers, to push for the spending decisions necessary to solve climate change.

Greenpeace director John Sauven welcomed the prime minister’s initiative to go to Copenhagen himself.

“Gordon Brown has injected a note of urgency into the Copenhagen talks by agreeing to attend. At the moment there is a huge gap between what needs to be done and what world leaders are promising to do,” he said.

It was rumoured today that Barack Obama is also considering attending the summit in person.

The prime minister also warned that UK consumers will be paying more for energy in the future – whether the UK adopts more renewable energy sources or not.

However, he argued that a global low-carbon economy would create green jobs and help the world recover from the recent recession.

“What has now become clear is that the push toward decarbonisation will be one of the major drivers of global and national economic growth over the next decade,” he said.

“And the economies which embrace the green revolution earliest will reap the greatest economic rewards.”

The prime minister has long been positioning the UK as a world leader on climate change. However, critics have argued that the UK is now losing its lead to other European counties.

The government is facing mounting criticism from environmentalists for failing to commit to 40 per cent CO2 cuts by 2020, which scientists say are vital.

Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that CO2 production from fossil fuels fell this year by the largest amount in 40 years.

The IEA called the results promising and said the fall makes it “much less difficult” to achieve the necessary carbon emissions reductions. However, the news was met cautiously by environmental groups.

The UN climate conference in Copenhagen will take place in December.