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Targets Vital To Climate Battle

File photo of a protest outside Downing Street in London. Copyright AFP.
By Hannah K. Strange
UPI U.K. Correspondent
London (UPI) Feb 07, 2006
A post-Kyoto agreement to tackle climate change must include targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday.

Eyeing a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire in 2012, Blair said despite U.S. concerns, there would have to be more decisive action to cut emissions.

"In my view, this can only be done if you have a framework that in the end has targets within it," he told a committee of senior parliamentarians. "If you don't get to that point...the danger is you never have the right incentives to invest heavily in clean technology."

U.S. President George W. Bush has rejected a targets-based approach in favor of developing clean technologies to curb greenhouse emissions. Remarks by Blair last year were interpreted as a sign he was moving toward the U.S. position, but Tuesday's comments are an apparent reassertion of his commitment to the Kyoto Protocol and a successor treaty.

Blair said the fight against climate change could only be won if the United States, India and China signed up to a framework that included targets and that succeeded the 1992 Kyoto Protocol climate pact.

"If we don't get the right agreement internationally for the period after which the Kyoto protocol will expire -- that's in 2012 -- if we don't do that then I think we are in serious trouble," he told the committee.

Asked if the world had seven years to implement measures on climate change before the problem reached "tipping point," Blair replied: "Yes."

Blair said he was speaking to Bush about global warming "virtually the whole time."

He said the United States had "a very clear position" on tackling climate change, and there could be a way forward if Washington were persuaded that controls will not hinder economic growth. He added there was no point in speculating on the U.S. position until discussions were concluded.

"My own view, as I say, is that they have moved a long way in the last couple of years, but obviously I and many others want to see America move much further," he said.

Blair said finally a climate change deal could only come about with a framework of incentives so the private and public sectors work on technology necessary for clean energy.

"It is only going to come through the science and technology being developed," he said. "One thing that is absolutely essential in this area, in my view, is to dispose of a lot of the nonsense that simply points the finger at America and says America is the only problem in relation to climate change."

Many European Union states were struggling to keep to their Kyoto targets, Blair said, while emerging economies such as India and China had not joined the protocol.

But there may be signs that Washington might be seeing that there are real issues to do with security of energy supply. Bush surprised the world last week by using his State of the Union address to tackle the issue, saying the United States was "addicted to oil."

Bush pledged to reduce U.S. oil imports from the Middle East by 75 percent by 2025 by increased use of green technologies. He set a six-year goal for making ethanol-based fuels practical and vowed to fund additional research into ways to make ethanol not just from the commonly used corn but also from wood-chips or grasses.

Critics, however, were skeptical that the U.S. administration would really put that much effort into alternative fuel research.

Professor Michael Grubb, senior economist at the Carbon Trust and a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said any U.S. acceptance of emissions targets was a long way off.

"It'll be a very long way from where they are now to endorsing any type of targets-based approach," he told United Press International.

Blair's renewed commitment to a targets-led agreement could be read as a correction of earlier comments that had been interpreted as a move away from a Kyoto-style deal, Grubb said. In fact, the British government had never seen an inconsistency between targets and technology, he added.

Grubb said the U.S. attitude was changing "in some ways," particularly in terms of growing concerns over energy security. There was "considerable unease" in Washington over the isolation of the U.S. position and its substance; the argument that technology alone could tackle climate change was "a pretty strange one," he said.

There was as yet no "credible alternative" to a targets-led approach, he told UPI.

While it was important to secure an agreement between as many countries as possible, if that involved scrapping the fundamentals of the Kyoto regime it would be a "self-defeating exercise," he added.

Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth U.K., said: "We're pleased to see that the prime minister is calling for an international framework based on clear targets and timetables."

Source: United Press International

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