Blair unveils his green offensive with demand US ratifies Kyoto

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair will today urge the United States to commit itself to tougher action to combat global warming and promise that a list of green policies will be included in Labour's general election manifesto.

The Prime Minister is to raise the profile of green issues as part of a drive to woo back people disaffected by the Iraq war. Labour's private polling shows that "progressive voters", many of whom were alienated by Mr Blair's stance on Iraq, regard the environment as a top priority.

Speaking to a conference staged by the Prince of Wales's Business and the Environment Programme, Mr Blair will stop short of a full-frontal attack on President George Bush, but will make clear that when Britain takes over the presidency of the G8 group of leading industrialised nations in January, it will expect America to accept its responsibilities on global warming.

Mr Blair, who believes the Kyoto treaty does not go far enough, will reiterate his call for the United States to sign it. He will identify climate change as one of the the greatest challenges facing the planet, saying that one country acting alone cannot solve the problem. He believes that nations who promise to act must be assured that they will not be undermined by "free riders" who refuse to play their part.

He will also urge businesses to join the battle, arguing that companies must not drag their feet about implementing higher environmental standards. He will say that there is no conflict between protecting the environment and a strong economy, and that "green" scientific advances can help to boost growth. He will insist that economic development, social justice and environmental modernisation must go hand in hand.

The Prime Minister will seek to recapture the initiative on green policy by pledging action both abroad and at home, and insisting that the Government's record on the environment is better than it is often given credit for. He wants environmental protection to form a plank of Labour's manifesto for the election expected next May, which is likely to include a firm pledge to boost renewable energy and build more wind farms. He will call for a new partnership between central and local government and other public bodies to promote sustainability.

The pressure on the United States to act will be stepped up this week by Stephen Byers, a former cabinet minister who is a close ally of Mr Blair and co-chairs an international task force on climate change. He is in Washington for three days of talks with the Bush administration, John Kerry's Democratic campaign team, Congressmen, business interests and environmental groups.

Mr Byers said yesterday: "The reality is that unless we can get the United States engaged - responsible as it is for around a quarter of the world's carbon dioxide emissions - then any hopes of successfully tackling global warming will be doomed to failure.

"I know that there is a considerable body of opinion in America that believes the introduction of measures to tackle global warming will adversely affect the American way of life. But for millions of Americans, climate change is already having a damaging and disrupting effect on their lives. Time is running out if we are to win this battle against climate change, and we need America to join the international effort."

Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said: "Tony Blair has an historic opportunity to lead the world in the crucial battle against climate change. We are delighted that he will be putting it at the top of the European Union and G8 political agenda.

"The Prime Minister must awaken the world to the scale of the problem and say that the time has come for tough decisions and tough action. But the Prime Minister's warning will carry greater weight if it is backed by firm action to tackle the problem at home."


Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth

Tony Blair and his ministers have a mixed record on environmental issues. He has been a strong advocate for global action, but traffic increases and coal-fired power plants have seen carbon dioxide emissions increase under Labour.Ecological goals lose out to policies that increase economic growth. There have been some improvements in wildlife protection, but we still have huge challenges in agriculture. Farmers are disappearing almost as fast as sparrows and the policies to save them are still not in place.

Stephen Tindale, executive director of Greenpeace

Tony Blair is serious about climate change. Ever since 1997, he has prioritised a global agreement, and only he can influence Bush on this. But this is compromised by his government's feeble efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions. Prescott's Transport White Paper - a good package of policies which could have controlled carbon from road transport - was torn up almost as soon as it was published. Imminent airport expansion would undo all efforts to reduce our impact on the climate.

Michael Meacher, former environment minister

Europe is leading the world in climate policies and Germany and Britain are the main reformers. Our target is a reduction in emissions by 12.5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2011. Today it is about 5 per cent. Climate change is a worse risk than terrorism - 3,000 people died in 9/11 but 160,000 a year die because of disease caused by climate change. ButBush has let down the whole world. We have had no return for kowtowing to Bush over Iraq. It is time we had some pay-back.

Caroline Lucas, Green MEP

I'd like to see the same commitment, resources and energy that was used in Iraq used in the fight against climate change. Since Labour came to power in 1997, emissions from aircraft alone have risen by up to 23 per cent. Every time there's a fuel crisis the Government backs down, instead of using their vast majority to passing necessary but contentious legislation. If Mr Blair says nuclear power is a viable alternative, it would show a complete ignorance of the issues. The incremental measures Mr Blair is likely to propose aren't sufficient.

Sir Jonathon Porritt, chairman, Sustainable Develop-ment Commission

Labour is one of the few governments that are on course to meet their environmental targets in the coming years. The Prime Minister has taken a lead role in persuading other countries to move faster ... The Government must address domestic environmental policy ... Transport is a shambles in terms of its environmental implications and Labour needs to pursue their targets for renewables, energy efficiency and combined heat and power.

Sara Parkin, founding programme director, Forum for the Future

Labour's policy is not commensurate with the overwhelming evidence of climate change and they haven't twigged the economic opportunities associated with low-carbon goods and services. There is an economic market gagging for investment ... There are advantages in secure, affordable low-carbon supplies - clothes, food or whatever, yet the Government is wimpish. If you want people to behave differently, you must make them understand why.