Rich nations should be absolved from the need to cut emissions if they pay developing countries to do it on their behalf, a senior UN official has said. The controversial suggestion from Yvo de Boer, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has angered environmental groups.

They say climate change will not be solved unless rich and poor nations both cut emissions together. But Mr de Boer said the challenge was so great that action was needed now.  

The UN’s binding global climate agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, currently requires industrialised nations to reduce the majority of emissions themselves. But Mr de Boer said this was illogical, adding that the scale of the problem facing the world meant that countries should be allowed to invest in emission cuts wherever in the world it was cheapest.

But Mike Childs from Friends of the Earth said: “This proposal simply won’t deliver the cuts we need in time. The scientists are telling us that we need to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) by 50-80% by 2050. “Unless rich countries start to wean themselves off fossil fuels right away this won’t happen.”