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Environmentalists tell PM: don't abandon global warming fight

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    ... Environmentalists tell PM: don t abandon global warming fight · Blair stresses importance of economic growth · Campaigners fear end of target-based
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 3, 2005
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      Environmentalists tell PM: don't abandon global warming fight
      � Blair stresses importance of economic growth
      � Campaigners fear end of target-based approach

      David Adam, environment correspondent
      Wednesday November 2, 2005

      Guardian

      Environmental campaigners demanded that Tony Blair clarify his
      comments on global warming last night after the prime minister
      appeared to signal a shift away from a target-based approach to
      cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
      The prime minister said "informal mechanisms" were needed to address
      global warming that were likely to include an increasing focus on the
      private sector. At the end of the first day of a two-day conference
      of environment and energy ministers in London he said countries would
      not sacrifice economic growth for external agreements.

      Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said: "We need to
      understand immediately what he means by that. His role at the moment
      is pivotal. He's the only world leader who's pushing climate change
      as an issue that has to be dealt with. So what he says is going to
      carry particular weight and he's basically just rewritten the history
      of climate change politics."

      Phil Thornhill, from the Campaign Against Climate Change, said: "The
      idea that we're going to deal with a problem as massive as this on a
      voluntary basis is pure, self-serving fantasy and wishful thinking.
      If you have mandatory limits there will be investment in new
      technology. The trouble with Blair is that he says we need
      international agreement to move forward on climate change but it's
      also important to have something to agree on. If we all agreed to do
      nothing or next to nothing it's just as bad as having no agreement.
      People have agreed that we need targets. To have a treaty with no
      targets is like having a peace treaty where you can still fire guns."

      Mr Blair has been seen as a strong supporter of the Kyoto protocol
      and was thought to be keen on working towards finding a successor to
      the treaty. In September the government was still arguing that China
      and India's plans did not go far enough when they gave their backing
      to a US plan that backs technology, not emission targets, as a
      solution.

      As part of his support, the prime minister made tackling climate
      change his priority for the presidency of G8 and the EU this year,
      describing it as a greater threat to the world than terrorism. In
      May's election manifesto the government firmed up its pledge to cut
      carbon dioxide levels by 20% on 1990 levels by 2010, despite the fact
      that ministers had conceded that with current measures the UK was not
      going to reach its targets.

      However, yesterday Mr Blair said legally binding targets to reduce
      pollution made people "very nervous and very worried". He said when
      Kyoto expires in 2012, the international community would need a more
      sensitive framework for tackling global warming: "People fear some
      external force is going to impose some internal target on you, which
      is going to restrict your economic growth. I think in the world after
      2012 we need to find a better, more sensitive set of mechanisms to
      deal with this problem."

      His words come in the build-up to key United Nations talks in
      Montreal later this month on how to combat global warming after
      Kyoto. They appear to be aimed at drawing the US and developing
      countries into the international negotiations.

      Experts fear countries such as China and India, which are exempt from
      pollution caps under the Kyoto protocol, could derail attempts to
      reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Both countries say they take the
      threat of climate change seriously, but they are keen to use abundant
      coal stocks to feed the energy demands of their booming economies.
      China plans to build a new coal-fired power station a week and will
      overtake the US as the world's largest carbon dioxide emitter by 2025.

      The informal meeting brings together ministers from 20 countries as a
      follow-up to the G8 summit earlier this year. Speaking before the
      meeting, the environment secretary, Margaret Beckett, said
      partnerships to develop new technology that would allow developing
      countries to burn their vast stocks of coal more cleanly were the
      best way to get them to cooperate in efforts to tackle climate change.

      She admitted there had been "a serious divide" in recent years about
      whether the solution to climate change was through setting targets or
      developing technology. "This is clearly a false divide. Technology is
      essential to make the transition to a low carbon economy, and targets
      or goals or objectives set by country or sector or internationally
      have a vital role to play in driving forward that progress."

      Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, said: "It
      is all very well for the government to trumpet the merits of
      technology in reducing carbon emissions. But we need robust,
      measurable targets - not just vague aspirations."

      The US and the EU have had discussions with India and China on
      finding and transferring clean technology as an alternative way to
      bring emissions down. Central is the idea that carbon pollution could
      be stored underground, keeping it away from the atmosphere. The
      concept - also called carbon sequestration - has become popular with
      politicians, who see it as a way to carry on burning fossil fuels,
      and environmentalists, who view it as a way to prevent the building
      of new nuclear power stations. It could reduce emissions by up to 90%
      without restricting fossil fuel use, but experts say a viable large-
      scale system could be decades away.

      Mr Juniper said: "There are existing technologies that we could be
      using now which would cut fossil fuel demand ... Climate change is
      threatening the lives of millions. We must see real progress on the
      development of sustainable energy."

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,5323808-110970,00.html

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