Blair attacks 'dogma' of the Greens

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair will this week rebuke green groups for putting "dogma and prejudice" before science, and indicate that the Government is determined to press on with trials of GM crops.

Tony Blair will this week rebuke green groups for putting "dogma and prejudice" before science, and indicate that the Government is determined to press on with trials of GM crops.

He will deliver the rebuff - which will further infuriate campaigners who claim that he has failed to keep his environmental promises - on Tuesday, in the first wide-ranging speech on green issues he has made since coming to power three-and-a-half years ago.

But he will also tell his audience - a joint meeting of the Green Alliance and the Confederation of British Industry - that protecting the environment is "a non-negotiable priority", highlight the dangers of global warming, and warn that "the recent floods underline the impact of climate change".

And he will outline plans to set up a £50m-a-year carbon trust, using money from the lottery's new opportunities fund, for business to use cleaner, more efficient technologies. A further £50m will go to research in renewable energy - wind, wave and solar power, and another £50m to help provide more green spaces in towns.

The rebuke will reflect growing irritation among ministers, including John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister and environment supremo, at the failure of green groups to back the Government over higher fuel duties in the face of the recent fuel protests.

Mr Blair complains in private that green groups are never satisfied, constantly criticising the Government but failing to support it when it adopts environmentally friendly policies.

Officials add that he believes they "have been a problem over many years. He wants them to engage in real dialogue with government and over time have a meeting of minds."

The Prime Minister will say on Tuesday that there will be no retreat in the use of new technologies. And in a blunt message to Greenpeace and other protesters who have destroyed GM crops, he will say: "Science and values will dictate how we proceed, not dogma and prejudice." He will urge them instead to work with business to provide a more environmentally friendly Britain.

In a central theme of his speech he will argue that prosperity and the environment should be seen as partners, not enemies. "We can be richer by being greener. By being greener, we can enrich the quality of our lives," he will say.

"Protecting the environment is a non-negotiable priority. Consumption and the environment have not necessarily been natural partners, but in the world of unprecedented consumer choice, one of those choices is for a better environment.

"As the world becomes more prosperous, a cleaner, healthier environment is rising in the list of consumer priorities. We have no choice but to find a sustainable path to growth and development."

Mr Blair will stress the need to build a new coalition for the environment that works with the grain of consumers, business and science, not against them. This should harness consumer demand for a better environment, and encourage business to see the profits and growing markets in the new green technologies.

"We see business not as a problem; they can find solutions to innovations and new technology," he will say. "We can work with them to harness new, clean technologies to exploit new opportunities."

He will emphasise the importance of developing more efficient cars to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that help cause global warming. This may signal a change of emphasis from taxation to "greener" cars to cut fuel emissions when he faces questions on the demands of the fuel protesters for cuts in fuel duty.

Last night, Lord Melchett, executive director of Greenpeace, said: "We are not interested in name-calling. We have praised the Prime Minister unstintingly when he has got things right, and we have criticised the Government when it has gone against the grain of what consumers and most British companies want on GM foods."

Tony Juniper, policy and campaigns director of Friends of the Earth, welcomed the Prime Minister's insistence on integrating the economy and the environment, but said he was "quite wrong to criticise green groups". He said that, with membership far greater than all political parties combined, they represented public opinion much better on GM crops and other green issues.