Blair speaks out against US refusal to ratify Kyoto

A A A

Tony Blair sought to reassert his independence from the US yesterday by criticising its failure to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

Speaking in Mozambique last night, Mr Blair delivered a hard-hitting environmental speech calling for tougher targets to cut global warming.

"We must all of us ratify the Kyoto Protocol," the Prime Minister said, in a thinly-veiled rebuke to President George Bush, who has refused to sign up to the international agreement on global warming.

Mr Blair said that more radical cuts in greenhouse gases were needed to stem global warming and he urged international leaders to follow Britain's lead and strive for tougher targets.

"On climate change, we need to build on Kyoto but we should recognise one stark fact: even if we could deliver on Kyoto, it will at best mean a reduction of 1 per cent of global warming. But we know ... we need a 60 per cent reduction worldwide. In truth, Kyoto is not radical enough. Yet it is, at present, the most that is politically do-able and even then the largest nation, the United States, stands outside it."

The Prime Minister's speech, which will be followed by an address to world leaders at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg today, is among the most radical statements on the environment he has made.

The Green Party said yesterday that the Government's record on the environment was dismal. But Mr Blair's comments from Maputo, the capital, will be widely interpreted as an attempt to reassert his green credentials.

His speech followed a day of travelling through Mozambique, visiting aid projects backed by British organisations. The Prime Minister attacked the blight of poverty in the developing world and called on wealthy countries such as the US to show "political leadership".

He gave his backing to British companies to help develop new forms of sustainable energy. British firms exporting renewable energy technology, including wind and solar power equipment, would qualify for at least £50m in export credit guarantees to help cushion the risk of dealing with developing countries.

Referring to the problems in Africa of poverty and disease – as well as the threats to the environment – the Prime Minister said: "What is truly shocking is not the scale of the problems. The truly shocking thing is that we know the remedies. Where the wealthy countries have acted, it has made a difference. It is not rocket science, it is a matter of political will and leadership."

The Prime Minister made his call for action on global emissions in the first of two keynote speeches on the environment and sustainable development on the second day of his three-day trip to Africa.

He said: "It would help enormously in securing support for Kyoto – and indeed for the necessary more radical action on climate change – if we had a far clearer and deeper knowledge of how science and technology could help in energy production and use, of how market incentives could play a part in changing behaviour, of how business could not just survive but prosper on the back of good environmental policy."

Mr Blair's official spokesman denied that the phrase "market incentives" meant possible tax increases to punish those using harmful fuels. He said he would return to the issue with specific proposals at a later date. "But just remember: Kyoto is right but it is not enough," he said.

During the day, he had travelled through Mozambique seeing British-supported aid projects designed to boost trade and help cope with the chronic problems of HIV/Aids and malaria. He visited the central port of Beira and the nearby township of Dondo, where he was greeted enthusiastically. At the central hospital in Beira, which serves seven million people, he was told that even 16 of its 220 nurses had died from Aids since the start of the year.

But despite his attempts to focus his visit solely on the environment and aid, questions over any possible British military involvement in a US-led military strike against Iraq dogged the premier. He pointedly said nothing on the issue, and aides said all questions would have to wait until Mr Blair held the third of his televised press conferences on his return to Britain tomorrow.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions