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

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Recruitment Genius: Magento Front End Web Developer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

An all-female cast has been announced, and suddenly I am excited about Ghostbusters 3

Matthew James
Katie Price is due to divorce second husband Alex Reid today  

Lay off Katie Price – she’s entitled to state help for her disabled son

Rosie Millard
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore