THE BLOG
14/11/2013 07:19 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:56 GMT

Recipe for a Safer World

Imagine a world in which you and your neighbours plug in your cars to charge at night. A time when houses in the UK are so well insulated that we only need to put on our electric storage heaters on the coldest of days - and the super-efficient solar panels on your roof give you hot water and electricity.

In hot countries, buildings are created to allow for natural air flow, so there is no need for blasts of cold from air conditioners. You meet people from around the world by video conference room - and don't get on a plane.

Imagine a world in which fossil fuels are used only in exceptional circumstances. Energy will be used efficiently, sources of energy be will secure and consumption will be a dirty word.

If we are to hold global warming below the 'safe' level of 2oC, then this is the world we need to aim for. The dependence of individuals and countries on the continued flow of fossil fuels around the globe has to be ended.

To stay below 2oC warming, the world's countries need to find a way to limit their carbon emissions. Science shows that we can only emit 269 billion tonnes of carbon this century but at current rates, we will have used up this budget in about 20 years.

What this means is that two-thirds of known fossil fuels need to stay under ground. We therefore need to re-assess our relationship with fossil fuels.

This week in Warsaw, Poland, ministers from around the world will gather at the latest round of United Nations climate talks, known as COP19, to discuss the next phase of a global climate deal.

However, it is the nearly 200 countries represented there that we need to move to a world which is no longer dependent on coal, oil and gas. Indeed the host country, Poland, believes it is acceptable to have large, fossil-fuel powered electricity companies as sponsors of the talks.

Major environmental and development groups have written to Christiana Figueres, the Chair of the talks, asking her not to give a welcome to the International Coal and Climate Summit which is happening in Warsaw in parallel to COP19.

Australia, a country hit by increasing forest fires and floods, but with a huge coal export industry, has refused even to send a minister to the meeting.

What countries should do in Poland is agree to stay within their fair share of the world's carbon 'budget' - the amount of greenhouse gases that we can emit while keep the global temperature rise below 2oC. In addition, countries and should find the funds to help the world's poorest - such as those hit by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines - to respond to the changing and sometimes devastating climate.

But it is not just at climate change conferences that there must be change. Trade deals with India or China need not to be about securing fossil fuels or car manufacturing, as they are now, but about wind and solar technology and high speed communication systems.

We are all personally tied to fossil fuels in ways we cannot imagine. For example, our pension funds are heavily invested in fossil fuels around the world, our household bills are affected by the regional price of gas and national tax revenues depend on sales of petrol and diesel.

It is time for a transformation of the way we do business. Our future does not have to be a world of constraint and hardship but it should involve a much fairer division of the planet's resources. Furthermore, low-carbon energy can no longer be something governments allow on the side-lines, to keep the greens happy - it must become a central driver of our economy.

A good place to start would be the immediate transfer of the $500 billion that governments currently spend every year on fossil fuel subsidies into sustainable energy for the world's poorest people. Similarly, public money should no longer be invested in coal, the dirtiest of fuels.

On a personal level, you can join Share Action's 'green light' campaign and tell your pension funds to pull its money out of fossil fuels, and into the low-carbon technologies of the future.

Let's hope world leaders gathering in Warsaw can image this new fairer and more sustainable world. Even more importantly, let us hope that global business can wean itself off dependence on fossil fuels and see opportunity in a new low-carbon future. Let's hope - and let's do it in a hurry.