Blair speech will push for alternatives to fossil fuels

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair will push for the development of alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar power, in his speech to the Earth Summit on Monday.

The Independent revealed earlier this week that the European Commission, which represents Britain and other EU governments in global environment negotiations, would propose only a modest 1 per cent increase in the 10-year target for renewable energy to be included in the final agreement of the summit.

But the Prime Minister will argue for investment in innovative sources of energy both in Britain and the Third World. He will argue that solar, wind and hydroelectric power could be a clean answer to energy shortages, and call for more commercial investment in alternative energy.

He will also reassert Britain's determination to halt global warming and use scientific advances to protect the environment and cut world poverty. He wants to use British expertise to help poor countries harness natural power sources such as wind and solar power. But he will stop short of suggesting targets for building clean-energy homes in Britain.

The Prime Minister's backing for clean forms of energy as an alternative to fossil fuels will be welcomed by environmental groups, but they are bound to call for his pledge to be backed up with cash.

Solar power remains prohibitively expensive for most households in Britain, let alone developing countries. But the Government has yet to provide subsidies for households to install solar panels despite pleas to the Chancellor for cash from the Environment Department and the Department of Trade and Industry.

Mr Blair's environmental record has faced recent criticism with 60 per cent of voters believing that Labour is not doing enough to tackle world pollution.