Blair signals move away from climate targets after 2012

Tony Blair has questioned the effectiveness of target-based emissions reductions frameworks such as Kyoto, instead placing his faith in private-sector technology led models.

Concluding the meeting of G8 energy and environment ministers in London this week, Mr Blair said that incentives should be given for private sector investment in low carbon technology, and that partnerships needed to be developed that allowed technology transfer between developed and developing nations for emissions reduction.

However, these partnerships should develop on an informal basis, he said, "so that people don't feel that pressure of international negotiation that sometimes can be helpful, sometimes frankly can be unhelpful, but nonetheless they are able in a frank and open way to explore what the possibilities are for action."

Seemingly with the US government in mind, Mr Blair said that: "the moment we get to specific frameworks, and in particular talk of targets, then people get very nervous and very worried, and the reason for that is perfectly simple and we should be open and honest about it. It is because people fear some external force imposes an internal target that is going to restrict your economic growth. I think in the world after 2012 we need to find a better and more sensitive set of mechanisms to deal with this problem, because we cannot develop this science and technology unless the private sector gets a framework within which its directions are clear."

"The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge, but all economies know that the only sensible long term way of developing is to do it on a sustainable basis," Mr Blair said.

His comments were seized on by climate campaign groups who fear a divide is opening between those countries, such as most EU nations, who want to stick to the Kyoto style formula of cutting emissions according to set targets, and those nations such as the US who say they will rely on new technologies to replace some of the fossil fuels which cause greenhouse gas emissions.
Friends of the Earth Executive Director Tony Juniper said:

"By downplaying clear targets and frameworks, the Prime Minister is ignoring calls from UK companies who want a clear framework to operate within now. There has been a lot of discussion about the false choice between targets and technologies, but the reality is that without both we cannot achieve either. Climate change is the most urgent and serious challenge faced by the global community - and we need leadership to adapt the global economy to deal with it."

Claude Mandil, executive director of the International Energy Agency said that while the focus is on new technology, there were plenty of measures countries and individuals could take now in terms of energy efficiency. "We should not wait for new technologies, but implement energy conservation measures now."

At the close of the meeting, the partners agreed to work together on:
  • deployment of clean technologies, such as renewable energy technology and carbon capture and storage, to put global emissions on a path to slow, peak and decline;
  • incentives for large scale private sector investment in low carbon technologies, working with the World Bank;
  • a new model for cooperation between developed and developing countries, as put forward by China, India, Brazil, S Africa and Mexico at Gleneagles;
  • reinforcing action on climate change.

    In addition, a further £2.5 million of funding was granted to the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership from the UK government, taking total UK donations to £6 million over the next two years.

    UK Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Johnson said: "The meeting underlined that there is a broad consensus that we need to accelerate the deployment of technologies to tackle climate change while maintaining economic growth and sustainable development. We now need to identify priorities for cooperation, in both the short and long term. And we need to set a clear context for the private sector to invest in low carbon technologies with signals that are loud, long and legal."

    The next Ministerial Dialogue will be held in Mexico in 2006.

    By David Hopkins

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