MPs chastise Blair over climate change

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair is "wantonly squandering" Britain's leadership in the fight against global warming in order to pander to President Bush, a powerful cross-party committee of MPs reports today.

Tony Blair is "wantonly squandering" Britain's leadership in the fight against global warming in order to pander to President Bush, a powerful cross-party committee of MPs reports today.

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee says it is "profoundly concerned" by the PM's approach to what he called "the single most important long-term issue we face".

It comes at a particularly embarrassing time for the Government, which this week had to admit that Britain's emissions of carbon dioxide - the main cause of global warming - are rising.

The committee - one of only two in Parliament with the power to summon ministers from across Whitehall - says that the G8 and EU presidencies presented Britain with "a unique opportunity to provide leadership internationally on the issue of climate change" which poses a "potentially catastrophic threat".

But, it concludes, "the Government is creating the appearance of activity, while evading the harder national and international political decisions which must be made if there is to be any solution".

It takes issue with the Prime Minister's declared aims on global warming - to "further explore" the science of climate change, and develop technology to address it - which closely reflect President Bush's own declared priorities, and calls them "dismally unambitious".

But it reserves its harshest judgement for an attempt by Mr Blair to increase the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted by British industry over the next three years, in defiance of a European Commission ruling that this is illegal.

It says the Prime Minister pressed for the increase after lobbying from industry, in order to save electricity generating companies £33m a year.

But it reveals this saving "pales into insignificance" compared to "windfall profits" of £500m a year that the generators stand to make.

Instead, it urges the Government to base its policy on a scheme for sharing out permitted carbon emissions fairly among the world's people, proposed by the tiny London-based Global Commons Institute, a policy which is now backed by both the main opposition parties.

Peter Ainsworth MP, the chairman of the Commons committee, said last night: "The gap between Mr Blair's words and actions gets wider and wider by the week. He is abandoning Britain's leadership on global warming at the behest of President Bush."

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