Stephen Tindale: We kept on trying to believe him, perhaps for too long

Share
Related Topics

At regular intervals over the past few years, Tony Blair has given strong speeches on the importance and urgency of tackling climate change. He has told us that this is the single greatest challenge facing the international community, and that the scientific evidence is alarming. He is certainly right about that. He has also said he is personally passionate about solving the problem.

Greenpeace has been sharply critical of Mr Blair on other issues - on GM, nuclear power and, above all, on Iraq. But on climate we have tried to believe in his sincerity. We need politicians to take the lead, and we need to support them when they do. It's not our style to ask automatically, as Jeremy Paxman does: "Why is this bastard lying to me?"

On the diplomatic stage, Mr Blair has done quite well. He lobbied Russia to ratify Kyoto, and has said that climate will be a priority for his G8 presidency next year. But as he admitted in his most recent speech, in September, he will not be taken seriously on the world stage unless he has delivered real reductions in emissions at home. On this, his record is pathetic.

The Government has failed - and now seems to have given up - on controlling emissions from transport. Mr Blair promised fuel protesters in 2000 that he would give them cheap fuel just as soon as the Government could do without the revenue. On emissions from air transport, the fastest-growing source, the Government has not even tried, but instead favours uncontrolled expansion and new runways all round. Combined-heat-and-power plants, which dramatically increase efficiency and reduce emissions, have been starved of support and sacrificed to the objective of liberalising the energy market, so the CHP sector is now in decline.

The Government can boast a reasonably good record on promoting renewable energy, particularly offshore wind, and it did introduce the climate change levy back in 1999. But these have not been enough to make up for the numerous retreats, and the net result is that emissions of carbon dioxide have increased since 1997. So much for leadership.

Through all this, he kept on giving the speeches, and we kept on trying to believe him - perhaps for too long. But since his September speeches two further failures have convinced us we cannot trust him on climate. First, the Government caved into pressure from the CBI and increased the amount of carbon that industry will be allowed to emit under the new European emissions trading scheme which starts next year. The CBI is notorious for resisting any progressive policy and exaggerating the impact of proposed environmental changes. Even its former director Adair Turner has said that claims that environmental policy damages competitiveness are bogus. But still the Government, at No 10's insistence, capitulated and will allow industry to emit as much carbon in future as it has in the past.

Hot on the heels of this climbdown came the Housing Bill, in which the Government rejected amendments supported by Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and several Labour backbenchers, which would have increased the energy efficiency of the housing stock and increased the efficiency standards of social housing. On top of the climate benefits, this would have helped save some of the thousands of people who freeze to death every year in Britain. But the Government said it would be too expensive. (Following pressure from several backbenchers, the Government did eventually accept the amendment on overall energy efficiency, but persisted in rejecting its responsibility to those in social housing.)

So Mr Blair cannot be trusted to resist industry lobbying. He cannot be trusted to stand up to the motoring lobby, the airlines, or even the Treasury. Fancy speeches are not enough - tackling climate change requires radical action. All the evidence suggests that Mr Blair will not provide it. We intend to do all we can to expose the dangerous gap between rhetoric and reality.

Stephen Tindale is executive director of Greenpeace

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Service Manager

£37000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...

Recruitment Genius: Administrator

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has a track record...

Recruitment Genius: Solar Field Sales Executive

£40000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Relations Officer

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Craig Oliver, David Cameron’s Director of Communications  

i Editor's Letter: Poultry excuses from chicken spin doctors

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Women come back from the fields to sell vegetables at a market in Bangui, Central African Republic  

International Women's Day: Africa's women need to believe in themselves and start leading the way

Sylvia Bongo Ondimba
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable