Keep heat on govts over climate - Blair
Countries must keep up pressure on governments to address climate change whether or not they are signatories to the Kyoto Protocol Agreement, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said today.
"When governments are faced with an issue where they have got to confront certain interests. . . if there is not the support. . . it can be very difficult," he said.
By video link from Auckland Mr Blair told one questioner at a Wellington climate change conference that even though the United States was not a signatory to the 1997 Kyoto agreement, citizens in California and at least seven north-eastern states were pushing those state governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"There is pressure coming from people on those state governments," he said.
"One of the things you and other people can do is keep up the pressure. . . there are going to be some difficult decisions for government".
In Britain, which was expected to fall short of its target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent, a climate change levy was being introduced on heavy industrial emitters, but it was a tough step for a government, Mr Blair said.
"What people like you can do is to keep up the pressure on all of us, and the pressure on society as a whole to deal with this issue responsibly and quickly."
During a speech in Australia yesterday Mr Blair called for a broad agreement on global warming that could get China, India and the United States on board.
"I think it is possible to build, out of the initiatives that are happening today, a more realistic framework that gives us a real chance of being able to reduce emissions. . . and protect the climate," he said.
Mr Blair told today's conference that though the 1997 Kyoto agreement – which set targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions – was a start, wider action was needed in tackling climate change.
"I don't believe that we can wait five years to conclude a new agreement.
"I think we've got to do it much more quickly than that, and that agreement has to have at its heart a goal to stabilise climate change".
Such an agreement had to include all major developing companies, such as China and India, and big economies such as the United States.
"What I would like to see is the international community mobilised," he said.
The G8 conference due to be held soon in St Petersburg, Russia, and the Gleneagles G8-plus-5 dialogue to be held in Mexico in September should set a "bold ambition" of moving as quickly as possible to a goal to stabilise climate change, he said.
Such a framework would give governments and businesses some certainty over the direction for the world. All the latest signs indicated climate change problems were not getting better, but were deteriorating rapidly.
Mr Blair said Britain was one of the few countries expected to actually exceed its Kyoto targets in 2008-2012, but it would struggle to reach its target of a 20 per cent reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.
Responding to a question from former New Zealand Prime Minister Jim Bolger, the British PM said that European governments and companies needed to develop technologies that were good for the environment and which would allow sustainable economic growth.
One possibility was for changes to the European agricultural policy to help farmers to switch from producing food to producing biomass crops for energy.
"It does offer opportunities to switch from subsidised production of food to diversifying into biomass," he said.
Asked by Mr Bolger whether the world was "behind the eight-ball" because it was not moving fast enough to mitigate or adapt to climate change, Mr Blair said that was the risk.
But if the world's nations could produce the right framework and it was genuinely inclusive, they might be surprised by how much progress could be sped up, he said.
"It's almost as if we have got to produce for the environment the kind of technological revolution that gripped us with information technology," he said.
"You've got to create the circumstances in which the investors out there – business, the financial markets – think `this is where the opportunity's going to go'."
Mr Blair said New Zealand could play a role as a proselytiser and an agent for change, and could help persuade other governments that they could grow sustainably.
"There's a lot that can be done from countries like New Zealand to give a signal to the rest of the world," he said.