The Deputy Prime Minister claimed he had been making adjustments to his private life to become more environmentally friendly: "I use public transport more than private transport and I often take the chance to walk, as I did this morning."
But Mr Prescott brushed aside questions about Tony Blair's choice of Concorde, the world's most polluting vehicle, for his trip to Washington yesterday. "It's a great aircraft; next question," he said.
He was speaking at the launch of the Government's sustainable development initiative aimed at finding out the public's views on how to create "a fairer, greener and richer Britain".
The Government is stressing that fairness and social justice are as important as environmental protection in achieving sustainable development, the mantra of the environmental movement for the past decade. "We have to find a way of making sustainable development meaningful for all our people", said Mr Prescott.
However, only a third of the British public claim to have heard of the phrase and most are unable to define it. According to the consultation document released yesterday, sustainable development is "concerned with achieving economic growth, in the form of higher living standards, while protecting and where possible enhancing the environment".
To help, 100,000 leaflets have been printed and will be distributed in supermarkets and post offices, among other places.
They will invite everyone to give ideas and views on what the objectives and targets of the sustainable development plan should be, and what policies should be used to achieve them.
The intention of the exercise is to collate a broad range of views in order to draft a strategy by the year's end.
Michael Meacher, the environment minister, said: "We shall not achieve sustainable development if the only ones who are involved are politicians and journalists in London."
Ministers will be travelling the country in the next couple of months in an effort to promote the consultation process in the regions. In the meantime, the Deputy Prime Minister said that people, himself included, might have to change their lifestyles and ways of doing business. They might find more gain than pain in doing that. "Whether it's me in a Jaguar or somebody else, let's just get talking about it," he said.
- John Triggs