Prime minister Gordon Brown will tomorrow outline Britain's blueprint for a new international deal on global warming, which world leaders are pushing to be agreed at December's critical UN talks in Copenhagen. In a speech at London Zoo, the prime minister is expected to call on all developed countries, including Britain and the US, to show greater ambition in the fight against climate change.
The new agreement is intended to replace the Kyoto protocol in setting national limits on carbon pollution, and is billed by green campaigners as the last chance to save the planet from severe and dangerous levels of warming.
Brown and Ed Miliband, the energy and climate change secretary, will publish details in the government's Road to Copenhagen document, which Miliband said was aimed at revitalising public interest in the issue.
Speaking ahead of the launch, Miliband said: "People are still not sufficiently aware of the scale of the problem this could create for them and future generations in Britain.
"People believe climate change is happening in the UK, most people don't think it's a plot or something made up, but most people don't seem to think it will happen in their area."
He said Britain, which will negotiate the new treaty as part of the EU bloc, was pushing for the new deal to force emissions from developed nations to reach a peak by 2015.
Global greenhouse gas output should peak and begin to decline by 2020, to " irreversibly break" the trend of rising emissions.
Scientists have warned that global emissions need to peak in the next few years, and then significantly shrink, to avoid dangerous rises in temperature and changes to the climate.
Miliband said: "We're talking about reversing 150 to 200 years of the growth of carbon emissions. It's difficult, there are many obstacles in the way, but it's doable with the right political will."
The UK wants the deal to include commitments in three areas - emissions cuts by developed countries, reductions by developing countries compared with what they would emit without an agreement, and finance for climate change measures.
He said various countries, including the US, Japan and the EU, had already made offers of commitments they would sign up to, while China and other developing countries wanted a deal. But he said there needed to be "greater ambition from all countries" since the world could not afford to fail on the issue.
Miliband said his department has established a "Copenhagen war room" and ministers from across Whitehall are being instructed to raise the issue on all overseas visits.
A pamphlet explaining the risks posed by climate change and the importance of a Copenhagen deal is being sent to nearly 20,000 organisations across the UK - including libraries, schools, health centres and GP surgeries, as well as Citizens Advice centres and local authorities.
Miliband said: "There's a real danger of defeatism in this debate, a danger people think 'nothing can be done, it's inevitable, let's just hide under the bedclothes'."
He said leaders needed to be in the "business of optimism" and that he was genuinely optimistic about the efforts to tackle climate change.
The announcement comes the day after new data showed the growth of global carbon dioxide emissions fell by half in 2008 as a result of the recession, high oil prices and an increase in renewable energy. In addition, the figures show that, for the first time, carbon dioxide emissions from the developing world account for more than half of the global total.
The analysis, by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, shows that the rise in the world's emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement production in 2008 was just 1.7 per cent, compared with 3.3 per cent in 2007.
The slowdown in emissions growth was caused primarily by a 0.6 per cent fall in the consumption of oil - the first decline in global oil use since 1992. This trend was uneven around the world. In China, oil use continued to rise, but at only 3 per cent, down from an average of 8 per cent since 2001. In the US, oil consumption fell by a massive 7 per cent.
By contrast, global coal use continued to creep up and the rise in the consumption of natural gas remained unchanged.
Increasing renewable energy capacity and improving energy efficiency in many countries also contributed to the reduced rise in carbon dioxide emissions. NEAA's Jos Olivier said: "The impact of energy and climate policy is hard to distinguish from those of fuel prices and the recession, but policies encouraging renewable electricity generation will have helped avoid around 500m tonnes of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel power stations."
It remains to be seen how the rate of emissions will change in 2009. If the recession continues to bite through the year, global emissions could flatten off entirely.
Meanwhile, policymakers are likely to be particularly struck by the revelation that, in 2008, the developing world accounted for 50.3 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions, exceeding developed nations and international travel combined for the first time. This fact will provide ammunition for those arguing in favour of binding emissions targets for all nations, not just industrialised ones.
Furthermore, the data does not take into account the carbon dioxide released by deforestation, which accounts for almost 20 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions and takes place overwhelmingly in the developing world.
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