Blair Announces New Push for Kyoto Protocol

Published November 1, 2004

In a major speech delivered September 14, British Prime Minister Tony Blair detailed his plans to use the British positions as chair of next year’s G8 summit and president of the European Union during 2005 to put action to prevent global warming at the top of the international agenda.

“Parents Should Listen to their Children”

Blair began his speech by saying, “What is now plain is that the emission of greenhouse gases is causing global warming at a rate that began as significant, has become alarming, and is simply unsustainable in the long-term. And by long-term I do not mean centuries ahead. I mean within the lifetime of my children certainly; and possibly within my own. And by unsustainable, I do not mean a phenomenon causing problems of adjustment. I mean a challenge so far-reaching in its impact and irreversible in its destructive power, that it alters radically human existence.”

After laying out the evidence behind those assertions, Blair said, “And in this case, the science is backed up by intuition. It is not axiomatic that pollution causes damage. But it is likely. I am a strong supporter of proceeding through scientific analysis in such issues. But I also, as I think most people do, have a healthy instinct that if we upset the balance of nature, we are in all probability going to suffer a reaction. With world growth, and population as it is, this reaction must increase.

“We have been warned,” Blair added. “On most issues we ask children to listen to their parents. On climate change, it is parents who should listen to their children. Now is the time to start.”

According to the prime minister’s official spokesman, Blair’s plan includes three major goals. First, Blair intends to seek international agreement on the science and the threat posed by global warming. Second, he will try “to obtain agreement on a process to identify the science and technology measures necessary to meet the threat.” And third, he will seek the active involvement of major developing nations, particularly China and India, in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“Far More Ambitious than the Kyoto Protocol”

The British prime minister also announced plans for a scientific conference preparatory to the G8 meeting. “Prior to the G8 meeting itself we propose first to host an international scientific meeting at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Exeter in February,” Blair said. “More than just another scientific conference, this gathering will address the big questions on which we need to pool the answers available from the science: ‘What level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is self-evidently too much?’ and ‘What options do we have to avoid such levels?'”

Blair took pains not to personalize the issue as a disagreement with President George W. Bush. Referring to American concerns over Kyoto, he said, “Our efforts to stabilize the climate will need, over time, to become far more ambitious than the Kyoto Protocol. Kyoto is only the first step, but provides a solid foundation for the next stage of climate diplomacy. If Russia were to ratify, that would bring it into effect. We know there is disagreement with the U.S. over this issue. In 1997 the U.S. Senate voted 95-0 in favor of a resolution that stated it would refuse to ratify such a treaty. I doubt time has shifted the numbers very radically.”

British CO2 Emissions Rising

On September 13, the day before Blair delivered his speech, Michael Howard, leader of Britain’s opposition Conservative Party, accused Blair of not doing enough on global warming.

“The instinct of our prime minister is to lecture people,” Howard said. “But on his watch CO2 emissions have actually risen. He has set ambitious long-term targets for CO2 emissions reductions, but few people outside government believe that there is a coherent plan for achieving them.”

Howard then laid out his plans to address global warming if his party were voted into office at the next election. They include “re-asserting [Britain’s] international leadership,” creating a global cap-and-trade emissions scheme, “renewing the drive for a diverse renewable energy sector,” and “re-focusing on increased energy efficiency.” His government would demand global carbon trading be “rigorously policed.”

Kyoto Failing to Curb Canadian Emissions

According to the September 8 edition of Toronto’s Globe and Mail, Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased at a faster rate than emissions in the United States since 1990. The figures show Canada’s emissions have grown by 20 percent, while America’s have risen by only 14 percent.

Noted the Globe and Mail, “Even though the United States has been vilified by environmentalists for withdrawing from the Kyoto accord, it’s doing a better job of cutting greenhouse emissions than Canada, figures show.”

Harlan Watson, chief climate negotiator for the U.S. State Department, said the figures showed how difficult it is to reduce emissions. He told the Globe and Mail, “As we say, actions speak louder than signing pieces of paper. I don’t want to be harsh on Canada. We have some of the most self-righteous folks in Europe, of course, and they’re [also] having a great deal of difficulty. Energy use accounts for something in the order of 80 percent of the emissions. Until we get a handle on that, there’s no way to get from here to there, absent an economic collapse.”

Iain Murray is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Myron Ebell oversees global warming and international environmental work at CEI and chairs the Cooler Heads Coalition.

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