Blair failing on climate change, experts warn

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair risks losing his claim to be a world leader on climate change because of the way the UK has lost control of its own output of greenhouses gases, a leading scientist has warned.

The developed world was dragging its feet over this "life and death" problem, and could be condemning future generations to ferocious weather and huge economic sacrifices, the president of the Royal Society, Lord May of Oxford, told peers yesterday.

As he was speaking, a cabinet committee chaired by the Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett was meeting to work out new measures to get the UK back on track to meet its self-imposed targets for cutting the volume of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere. The target is to bring CO2 emissions down by 20 per cent from its 1990 level by 2020. Two years ago, it appeared that it might be met, but since then emissions have increased.

In one measure, the Transport Secretary Alistair Darling announced that petrol stations must ensure that at least 5 per cent of the fuel they sell comes from renewable sources by 2010.

"The renewable transport fuels obligation I am proposing today is predicted to save around one million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2010 - the equivalent of taking one million cars off the road," Mr Darling told the Environmentally Friendly Vehicles Conference in Birmingham yesterday.

But Lord May warned that the developed countries will have to agree drastic action at the world summit on sustainable development in Montreal this month.

"The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that countries are not doing enough to adapt their economies so that they reduce their greenhouse has emissions," he told the Lords.

"Research earlier this month suggests that a drop in rainfall in Ethiopia and surrounding countries in the past few years, where six to 10 million people are already facing serious food shortages, is also caused by a rise by sea surface temperatures, this time in the southern Indian Ocean. In the developing world climate change is about life and death - not just about domestic economics," he said.

"It is very difficult to criticise other countries, such as the United States, who will not meet their targets if we are unable to meet ours. Indeed, emissions by the US have actually declined over the last two years, although they are still some 20 per cent above 1990 levels."

Today two Bills put forward by backbench Labour MPs, designed to reduce global warming, will get their second reading in the House of Commons. The Management of Energy in Buildings Bill, promoted by Alan Whitehead, would rewrite the building regulations so that all new homes have to have a self-generating energy source such as a solar panel or a combined heat and power boiler that would generate electricity that can be sold to the grid.

The Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill, promoted by Mark Lazarowicz, would require the Government to keep MPs informed about progress in cutting back carbon dioxide emissions, and would require the energy companies to pay the market price for any energy generated from a private home.