Leading article: Boldness abroad, but cowardice at home

Share

Tony Blair has entered his last season of international summitry and, unsurprisingly, wants to make the most of it. Yesterday the Prime Minister held talks with the German President, Angela Merkel, in advance of the EU meeting next month and the G8 summit in June. The two leaders discussed the Middle East, world trade talks and Africa. But the most pressing topic on Mr Blair's mind was devising a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. It is increasingly clear that Mr Blair is hoping for a strong green legacy in international affairs.

Two years ago Mr Blair came up with the idea of a forum called Globe that would bring together parliamentarians and representatives from rich countries and fast-developing nations to combat climate change. The fruits are beginning to appear. Today, through Globe, senior Republican and Democraticleaders meet representatives from India and China in Washington. Members of the Chinese Communist party's environment and energy committees will sit down with the prospective Republican Presidential candidate John McCain.

Mr Blair believes the time is ripe for such an initiative. His advisers point out that US businesses are coming round to the idea of serious action on climate change. Blue-chip companies like Boeing and Dupont are in discussion about carbon allowances. The political atmosphere in the US seems to be changing, too. States have shown an interest in reducing emissions - California hopes to enter the EU emissions-trading scheme. The fact that President Bush is still in office is regarded as a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. The next US President will take over in January 2009. Mr Blair feels a new global treaty can be in place ready for him or her to sign. The Prime Minister also believes that he is in an ideal position to drive all this through. After he leaves office this year, Mr Blair, thanks to his formidable reserves of popularity in the US, will have access to leading political figures over there.

There is nothing wrong with any of this. It may even do some good. No one would deny that Mr Blair is a formidable political operator. But he should beware of overestimating his green credentials. His record on climate change in office has been distinctly unimpressive. Britain's CO2 emissions have actually risen under Labour. And in his last Queen's Speech he shunned a proposed bill for binding annual cuts in carbon emissions, despite the fact that ample political cover for the legislation was provided by the support of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. While Mr Blair's rhetoric on climate change has been full of boldness, his actual policies have been characterised by a shameful timidity.

It emerged yesterday that our Government is helping to block a European Commission proposal for a binding 20 per cent renewable-energy target by 2020. Britain apparently argued that member states should have "flexibility" to set their own targets. This betrays a terrible complacency. At present the EU has a non-binding goal of increasing renewable fuels to 12 per cent of the energy mix by 2010, which is likely to be missed. It is clear that an enforcement mechanism is needed.

Simply setting targets and expecting change is useless. Unpopular legislation to bring them about must be put in place. This is what Mr Blair has failed to understand. While he pushes for a new agreement on climate change, several EU countries are not even on course to meet the targets set out under Kyoto.

If Mr Blair wants to devote his energies to climate change when he leaves office, good luck to him. But it is a scandal that he did not do more to forestall global warming when he was in a position to have a direct impact on this threat to our world.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Technical Manager – Heat Pumps

£40000 Per Annum dependent on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: They ...

Test Job

TBC: Test Recruiter for iJobs: Job London (Greater)

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

A long way to go before we reach Dave Eggers's digital dystopia

Memphis Barker
 

August catch-up: dress to impress, words to use more often, and the end of the internet

John Rentoul
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis