Blair pledges £100m for environment


Tony Blair today pledged £100m to make Britain 'greener' in a major move supported by environmental groups but attacked by political rivals.

Tony Blair today pledged £100m to make Britain 'greener' in a major move supported by environmental groups but attacked by political rivals.

He said consumers, businesses, scientists, environmentalists and the Government must work together.

In a major speech to the Confederation of British Industry, he insisted financial prosperity and green issues were not enemies and could compliment each other.

The Prime Minister said: "We get richer by being greener and by being greener we will enrich the quality of our lives.

"I want to invite environmentalists and business to join me and push Green issues back up the political agenda - re-awaken the challenge - and I want to do it in constructive partnership government, business, the Green movement and the public.

"A partnership not where we always agree, that would be an impossible demand, but where we have at least some common aims and understanding of each other's necessary contributions to them."

And he added: "We should proceed according to science and a set of common values. We should build a business case for the environment, working to harness clean technologies, seeing business as part of the answer rather than the problem.

"We should acknowledge that technology alone will not fix things and that there has to be a framework set by Government, within which business works."

But his speech was attacked by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

Tory leader William Hague said Government policy was "all talk, no action".

He said the real test of Mr Blair's credentials came on issues such as protection of greenfield sites, GM crops and renewable energy.

Mr Hague insisted Conservative policies offered "real, substantial proposals rather than putting forward a lot of talk.

And he dismissed Mr Blair's speech, saying: "I think he feels: 'Now there is an election, I have to make a speech on environment."'

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy denounced Mr Blair's speech, saying it offered no new initiatives or policies.

He added: "Like so much of Tony Blair's premiership, this speech is void of any real vision or leadership.

"He continues to ghettoise the environment as an add-on extra rather than a central tenet of everything the Government does. This is not a sustainable approach to running the country."

But Peter Melchett, Executive director of Greenpeace, welcomed most of Mr Blair's measures, adding: "We are pleased that the Prime Minister today accepted the Royal Commission's case that we need to cut carbon dioxide emissions by at least 60 percent by 2050 and his recognition that this will have to mean substantial investment in offshore wind, solar and other renewable technology.

"His announcement of some new money for offshore wind is a welcome first step but we need to see the Government move much further and more quickly.

"Greenpeace welcomes Tony Blair's tribute to the existing alliance between environmentalists and progressive companies such as Greenpeace's Greenfreeze refrigeration technology."

And Lynn Sloman, assistant director of environmental pressure group Transport 2000, said: "We're encouraged that Mr Blair has at long last made explicit the link between using cars and climate change. The Government didn't do that during the fuel crisis in September.

"People need the Prime Minister to take a lead in explaining why we can't cut the price of motoring. He's now recognising the seriousness of the issue, and we welcome that. We hope this marks a change of tack for a government which has been on the run from the motoring and haulage lobbies for too long.

"We agree with him that we need to offer people practical alternatives such as better public transport and high tech fuel efficient cars. But we do not believe these alone will solve the transport crisis.

"Countless communities troubled by noise, intimidation and danger outside their front doors want the government to act to cut traffic and speeds too."

Mr Blair underlined the global threat due to climate change and warned that in the UK there was the prospect of exotic diseases becoming commonplace, increased levels of skin cancer, floods in some years, with droughts in others, and the risk of low-lying areas being swallowed by the sea.

Farmland birds were disappearing in Britain, while the house sparrow, once more cockney than the cockneys, was now a rarity in London.

Congestion meant that urban traffic moved at the same speed as it did in 1890.

Fresh water was being polluted or used up - and demand doubled every 21 years although supply was broadly unchanged.

Mr Blair said consumer demand for Green goods should be harnessed, and not stifled.

Ways should be found of satisfying the public's aspirations in this area.

Science should be stimulated, he said, adding that he rejected the pessimistic notion that most environmental problems could only be managed, not solved.

He said: "We should see protecting the environment as a business opportunity.

"There is a growing market for environmental goods and services currently worth an amazing $300bn - as large as the world market for pharmaceuticals or aerospace."

Mr Blair said he made no apology for the priority his Government had given to education, health and crime.

But no other British government had had a Deputy Prime Minister in charge of environment policy, he went on.

"And no other British government has put the environment at the heart of its policy-making across the board from foreign affairs to the national curriculum in the way this Government has."

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is shortly to publish the final version of the Government's strategy on climate change.

It would set out how Britain planned to deliver its international obligations to cut greenhouse gases by 12.5 percent and move towards a 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

This would include a 10 percent target for energy from renewable sources by 2010.

Mr Blair said the Government would shortly be launching a new Carbon Trust in Britain which would channel up to £50m a year developing low carbon technology, partly paid for from the Climate Change Levy.

The trust would take the lead on low carbon technology and innovation, putting Britain in the lead internationally.

"We will also be setting up an office to export Britain's low carbon technologies, the Kyoto Mechanisms Office. It will start work in April 2001," he said.

He also announced plans for £50m from the New Opportunities Fund to support off-shore wind and biomass.

The forthcoming rural white paper would set out policies for a living countryside which was economically vibrant, and conserved wildlife and landscapes which everyone could enjoy, said Mr Blair.

The urban White Paper would set out the Government's national strategy for neighbourhood renewal.

On recycling the Government wanted to do more to harness the power of the market.

"I want to see every local authority offering doorstep recycling to take advantage of the new markets, and the office co-ordinating Government procurement will soon begin trialling the purchasing of recycled produces using Government purchasing to expand the market," Mr Blair said.

"The international climate change negotiations remain a key Government priority and we will be taking a leading role in the Hague next month.

"I also want to extend the EU's economic reform agenda to new energy saving technologies."

Looking ahead to 2002, after the next general election, the Prime Minister said he planned to attend the next Earth Summit and added: "I will be encouraging other world leaders to join us there."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
i100(More than you think)
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey


Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up