Blair makes renewables lobby nervous

A few short months ago the future looked bright for UK renewables as Tony Blair pushed the global importance of tackling climate change in the build up to the high profile G8 gathering.

Now there are mutterings in environmental circles that Blair had abandoned his visionary support for renewable energy and is leaning towards the American model and relying more on ‘new technologies’ as the solution to cutting carbon emissions.

At a conference in New York, Blair reportedly told the audience he was changing his thinking on the best strategy to address climate change.

“The truth is no country is going to cut its growth or consumption substantially in the light of a long-term environmental problem,” he is reported as saying.

“What countries are prepared to do is to try to work together cooperatively to deal with this problem in a way that allows us to develop the science and technology in a beneficial way”

“To be honest, I don’t think people are going, at least in the short term, going to start negotiating another major treaty like Kyoto.”

For many, new technologies is seen as code for the next generation of nuclear power plants, and the Prime Minister’s apparent support for the idea has made the Green lobby jittery.

“It beggars belief that Blair can put climate change at the forefront of

the agenda for the G8 Summit, and then, merely months later, he can totally

change the thrust of his policy, without even discussing it with the public

or his own party,” said the Green Party’s Keith Taylor at his party conference this week.

While Blair’s comments at a US conference earlier this month may have indicated a steer away from treaties and targets and towards investment in technology, the party line remains unchanged.

The Labour website says: “Our vision of the future is of a world in which climate change and environmental degradation continue to be recognised and addressed by all nations and where low carbon emissions and the efficient use of environmental resources are at the heart of our whole way of life.”

And that the party is committed to: “Further reductions in greenhouse gases: By 2010 we will move towards a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions below 1990 levels, through measures including energy efficiency and renewables. And we are on track to reduce emissions by 60% by 2050.”

But Friends of the Earth and others want the Prime Minister to clarify his position and spell it out in black and white.

“The Prime Minister’s apparent backsliding on climate change is very worrying,” said FoE’s Tony Juniper.

“Labour’s credibility on global warming is in danger at home because of rising emissions. Now Tony Blair is risking the UK’s international leadership by appearing to back a voluntary push for technology with no legal targets or timetables.

“Tony Blair must clarify his position. It is just a matter of months until the crucial climate talks in Montreal which represent a vital opportunity for the international community to take action on climate change.

“If we fail to tackle this threat, the economic and human costs for the entire world will be immense.”

While Government support for renewables might be waning there are companies out there showing the sector is rapidly growing and there is certainly room to expand.

Fuel cell developers Intelligent Energy were recently ranked as the third fastest growing British technology company in the Sunday Times while solar energy providers Solarcentury were 25th.

The impressive rankings demonstrate a real scope for continued growth in the sector, whether or not it receives the backing of heads of state.

By Sam Bond

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