Michael McCarthy: PM has his critics but deserves credit on global warming

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The Independent Online

Pressure groups exist to apply pressure, not to take a fair and balanced view of things, so it is perhaps natural that governments can never seem to satisfy them. But it is hard not to feel sympathy for Tony Blair when he laments that his Government does not get the credit it deserves, from green groups and others, over its record on climate change.

On the international front, at least, the Blair administration's record is creditable. Let us not forget that this is the government that signed the Kyoto protocol, the climate change treaty, nine years ago next month, and that the now-discredited figure of John Prescott played a major role in successfully concluding the late-night negotiations in the Japanese city - an outcome that was by no means assured.

Furthermore, since Mr Blair himself started taking a personal interest in climate change and speaking out on it, from 2000, he has propelled it to near the top of the international agenda virtually single-handed; no other world leader has so emphasised the danger. Although a major charge against him from Britain's greens has been that, domestically at any rate, his actions have not matched his rhetoric, Mr Blair's efforts culminated at the G8 meeting in Gleneagles in Scotland in July last year, when he succeeded in getting China, soon to be the world's biggest carbon emitter, to talk about its emissions for the first time, along with four other rapidly-industrialising developing nations.

This crucial breakthrough was instantly overshadowed by the London bombs that went off the next day, and it is in the context of this "Gleneagles dialogue" that, as we report today, Britain is now seeking a global greenhouse gas stabilisation target, which would be the biggest step forward since Kyoto. For the early years after his 1997 election victory, Tony Blair was with the British people. Since then, the British public have steadily fallen out of love with him, most of all over Iraq. But that should blind no one to the fact that what he has done on climate change has been of the utmost importance, not just for Britain, but for the world.