Sir David King appointed UK climate change envoy

Former Chief Scientific Advisor takes key Foreign Office post two years ahead of proposed UN emissions reduction deal

(Pic: World Economic Forum)

By Ed King

Sir David King has been appointed as Foreign Secretary William Hague’s new special representative for climate change.

The Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor from 2000–2007 takes charge of an extensive network of climate diplomats, and will lead the UK’s overseas work on promoting low carbon growth.

King replaces Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, who had taken the role on an interim basis earlier this year, focusing on the security implications of climate change.

In a statement released at the weekend, Hague said Sir David will play an important role in negotiations ahead of a global emissions reduction deal scheduled for 2015.

“As well as a long-held commitment to raising awareness of climate change, he brings a deep and specific knowledge of climate and energy issues and a wealth of broader experience to the role, which he will begin later this year,” he said.

“I know that Sir David is keen to build on Neil’s excellent work, working with the FCO’s global network and DECC, as we continue to build the conditions and momentum towards securing a global and legally binding climate agreement in 2015.”

In 2004 King branded global warming as a “greater threat than global terrorism”, and is credited with raising the profile of the issue within Tony Blair’s government.

Four years later the UK adopted the Climate Change Act, legislation that provides a legally binding framework for the country to decarbonise its energy system.

Earlier this year King warned that the threat of climate change is now so severe it demands a response similar to the Apollo Moon landings and the Manhattan Project that developed the nuclear bomb.

Writing in the FT in August, King and economist Richard Layard argued G20 countries need to join forces to invest in solar power.

“To match the spending on the Apollo project would require only 0.05 per cent of each year’s gross domestic product for 10 years from each G20 country.”

King added: “Since we have just passed 400 parts per million [of carbon dioxide] and most climate scientists believe 450 will leave to potential calamities, this is a good moment to give an extra push to the development of solar energy.”

Given the proximity of a UN climate deal, the appointment may be seen as risky by some observers.

In 2011 King recommended the UN’s flagship emissions reduction treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, be scrapped, suggesting voluntary goals would be politically more acceptable to countries.

“If you say only a full [legally binding] treaty is any good, we will still be arguing about it in 20 years,” he told the Guardian.

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