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UN Climate Summit 2014: David Cameron’s remarks

Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing our world. And it is not just a threat to the environment. It is also a threat to our national security, to global security, to poverty eradication and to economic prosperity.

And we must agree a global deal in Paris next year. We simply cannot put this off any longer.

And I pay tribute to Secretary General Ban for bringing everyone together here today and for putting real focus on this issue.

Now my country, the United Kingdom, is playing its part.

In fact, it was Margaret Thatcher who was one of the first world leaders to demand action on climate change, right here at the United Nations 25 years ago.

Now since then, the UK has cut greenhouse gas emissions by one quarter. We have created the world’s first Climate Change Act. And as Prime Minister, I pledged that the government I lead would be the greenest government ever. And I believe we’ve kept that promise.

We’ve more than doubled our capacity in renewable electricity in the last 4 years alone. We now have enough solar to power almost a million UK homes. We have the world’s leading financial centre in carbon trading. And we have established the world’s first green investment bank. We’ve invested £1 billion in Carbon Capture and Storage. And we’ve said no to any new coal without Carbon Capture and Storage. We are investing in all forms of lower carbon energy including shale gas and nuclear, with the first new nuclear plant coming on stream for a generation.

Now, as a result of all that we are doing, we are on track to cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. And we are playing our role internationally as well, providing nearly £4 billion of climate finance over 5 years as part of our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our Gross National Income on aid. And we are one of the only countries in the advanced world to do that and to meet our promises.

We now need the whole world though to step up to deliver a new, ambitious, global deal which keeps the 2 degree goal within reach. I’ll be pushing European Union leaders to come to Paris with an offer to cut emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030.

We know from Copenhagen that we are not just going to turn up in Paris and reach a deal. We need to work hard now to raise the level of ambition and to work through the difficult issues. To achieve a deal we need all countries, all countries to make commitments to reduce emissions. Our agreement has to be legally binding, with proper rules and targets to hold each other to account.

We must provide support to those who need it, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable. It is completely unrealistic to expect developing countries to forgo the high carbon route to growth that so many Western countries enjoyed, unless we support them to achieve green growth. Now, if we get this right there need not be a trade-off between economic growth and reducing carbon emissions.

We need to give business the certainty it needs to invest in low carbon. That means fighting against the economically and environmentally perverse fossil fuel subsidies which distort free markets and rip off taxpayers. It means championing green free trade, slashing tariffs on things like solar panels. And it means giving business the flexibility to pick the right technologies for their needs.

In short we need a framework built on green growth not green tape.

As political leaders we have a duty to think long-term. When offered clear scientific advice, we should listen to it. When faced with risks, we should insure against them. And when presented with an opportunity to safeguard the long-term future of our planet and our people, we should seize it.

So I would implore everyone to seize this opportunity over the coming year. Countries like the United Kingdom have taken the steps necessary. We’ve legislated. We’ve acted. We’ve invested. And I urge other countries to take the steps that they need to as well so we can reach this historic deal.

Thank you.

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