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Blair to lead campaign on climate change

Blair to lead campaign on climate change

Tony Blair is to lead a new international team to tackle the intractable problem of securing a global deal on climate change which would have the backing of China and America.

The former prime minister believes he can help prepare a blueprint for an agreement to cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2050, and has the backing of the White House, the UN and Europe, including Gordon Brown.

He told the Guardian he has been working on the project with a group of climate change experts since he left office last summer, and will publish an interim report to the G8 group of industrialised nations this summer.

"This is extremely urgent. A 50% cut by 2050 has to be a central component of this. We have to try this year to get that agreed, because the moment you do agree that, then you have something for everyone to focus upon. We need a true and proper global deal, and that needs to include America and China," Blair said.

He is due to reveal the initiative this weekend at a meeting of the G20 in Japan, before travelling to discuss the plans with the Chinese and Indian governments. "There is a deadlock. Everyone is agreed where we want to get to, but unless you agree on the framework for getting there, you are left with a process and not a result," he said.

He said the world had less than two years to secure a deal, or accept that global warming is irreversible.

"The fact of the matter is that if we do not take substantial action over the next two years, then by 2020 we will thinking seriously about adaptation rather than prevention."

Blair played a key role in putting climate change on to the international agenda, and in trying to persuade the Bush administration that it could play a part in a global deal to cut carbon emissions.

He will formally launch the initiative at a meeting in Tokyo following talks with Yasuo Fukuda, the prime minister of Japan, the current president of the G8. "People often say to me there are a lot of climate change plans out there, and I say 'how many of them are politically doable? So the experts are providing technical knowledge, and specialist insight, but what I am trying to do is guide it politically," Blair said.

He is backed by the Climate Group, a not-for-profit organisation supported by business. He is drawing together a team of international experts, including Sir Nicholas Stern, the author of the groundbreaking report on the costs of climate change, and specialists from China, Japan, the US and Europe.

The UN needs to agree a new climate change deal by the end of the year to replace the Kyoto treaty that expires in 2012. Talks in Bali in December nearly collapsed with US insisting it will not join a deal that does not include the world's second largest total emitter China.

The Chinese insist that their emissions are dwarfed by the US, and America must make the main contribution. The UN conference in Bali agreed there had to be contributions by all countries, but no agreement exists on what this means.

Blair said: "Essentially what everyone has agreed is that climate change is a serious problem, it is man-made, we require a global deal, that there should be a substantial cut in emissions at the heart of it, and this global deal should involve everyone, including in particular America on the one hand and China on the other, so it is the developed and developing world.

"The question is what is the framework that gets everyone in the deal?"

Following an interim report in June, his team intends to set out the continuing differences between the big countries next summer, then produce economic models to show that fears over the sacrifices required can be overcome.

"The one thing I am absolutely sure of is that we are not going to get the action necessary by telling people not to consume. The Chinese and Indian governments are determined to grow their economies. They have hundreds of millions of very poor people - they are going to industrialise, they are going to raise their living standards, and quite right too."

The initiative was disclosed yesterday as the prime minister, Gordon Brown, launched a campaign to get Europe to slash taxes on "green goods" such as environmentally friendly fridges, telling government leaders the move would be a powerful lever in the fight against global warming.

The Brussels summit of 27 government leaders last night grappled with a timetable for an ambitious action plan to slash greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020.


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