Blair warns of energy 'catastrophe'

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Tony Blair gave fellow EU leaders a doomsday warning on climate change yesterday, on the eve of a summit meeting with Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, to discuss Europe's energy needs.

In a joint letter with the Dutch premier, Jan Peter Balkenende, Mr Blair said Europe had "only 10-15 years" to avoid "catastrophic tipping points".

Mr Blair's intervention coincided with the launch of a European Commission blueprint on curbing energy use. It called for reductions in consumption to 14 per cent below current levels by 2020.

David Miliband, the Secretary of State for the Environment, called meanwhile for plans to include airlines in a European emissions trading system to be speeded up so that air carriers are included by 2008.

Energy is at the top of the agenda for today's summit and the presence of Mr Putin as an invited dinner guest is a reminder of Europe's reliance on oil and gas producers. EU leaders will also confront Mr Putin over his row with Georgia and several human rights issues. These include the murder of the campaigning journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

In his letter Mr Blair advocates more investment in renewables technology, encouraging China's transition to a low carbon economy and accelerating clean coal technology.

Speaking in Berlin, Mr Miliband highlighted the importance of including aviation in the European emissions trading system "at the earliest opportunity". He argued: "Our starting point is 2008, but if not in 2008 then well before the beginning of the third phase in 2013. We should consider how to apply similar principles to surface transport."

* The European Commission says switching off appliances that use standby modes and using low-energy models would save more than €100bn a year by 2020. It would also avoid releasing 780bn tonnes of CO2.