Blair blocked plan to cut emissions

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The Independent Online

The Prime Minister did not back proposals from his Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, that aimed to get the Government's strategy to fight climate change back on track.

As a result, ministers had to admit last week that they would not meet a target, which was set in three election manifestos, for cutting pollution.

The revelation comes as new official statistics show that Britain's carbon dioxide emissions - the main cause of global warming - have risen for the third year in a row. This means that emissions have risen, by 2 per cent, instead of falling since Mr Blair came to power nine years ago.

Labour has promised in its manifestos since 1997 to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent, from their 1990 level, by 2010. With just four years to go, the latest rise means that emissions are down only 5.3 per cent since 1990.

Mr Blair told a climate change conference in New Zealand last week that failure to take action on global warming would be "absolutely disastrous". He added: "I don't want it on the conscience of me, or my generation, that we were told what this problem was and did nothing about it."

The Government's new programme, announced on Tuesday, makes little progress, though. Work began in a panic after ministers realised that their previous plans would probably reduce emissions by only 14 per cent by the target date. This new policy review, however, contains almost no new measures and, even by ministers' estimates, may only increase the reduction to 15 per cent. Downing Street sources privately concede that even this may be optimistic.

Mr Blair chaired the committee that conducted the review and failed to back a 58-point plan put forward by Mrs Beckett. The plan included a measure that aimed to enforce speed limits to save fuel.

Privately the Prime Minister shows little interest in measures to cut pollution, preferring international talks, where he increasingly mirrors the position of President George Bush.