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Blair Leans Toward Climate Technology, Away From Targets

LONDON, UK, November 2, 2005 (ENS) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair concluded an international conference on climate change Tuesday in London, saying that technology and science will provide part of the solution to global warming. He edged away from reliance on the binding framework and targets of the Kyoto Protocol, saying these mechanisms made people "very nervous and very worried."

At the conference, energy and environment ministers from 20 countries met as part of the new G8 Gleneagles Dialogue. The gathering is linked to the Group of Eight because it was started by leaders at Gleneagles, Scotland in July, and Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi has asked for a report on the Dialogue for the Japanese G8 Summit in 2008.

Blair said the evidence of climate change is getting stronger and even those who once doubted it now accept there are concerns over energy security and supply. But he recognized the widespread fear that limiting greenhouse gas emissions will also limit economic growth.

Blair

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has personally promoted the Greneagles Dialogue. (Photo courtesy No. 10 Downing St.)
"People fear some external force is going to impose some internal target on you which is going to restrict your economic growth,” said Blair, referring to the Kyoto Protocol, under which industrialized countries must reduced greenhouse gases an average of 5.2 percent by 2012 compared to 1990 levels.

"The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge," Blair said. "But all economies know that the only sensible, long-term way to develop is to do it on a sustainable basis."

The UK itself may not achieve its stated target of a 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2010, some analysts say. As gas prices have gone up, some British electricity producers have switched back to coal, and the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by motor vehicles and aircraft increases year by year.

Friends of the Earth last night attacked the Prime Minister’s questioning of clear targets and frameworks for dealing with global warming.

"While we welcome Tony Blair’s efforts to keep climate change on the international agenda, it is important that the Prime Minister remembers that leadership is about more than warm words," said Friends of the Earth Executive Director Tony Juniper. "To show real leadership he must stick to his guns and keep the pressure on the international community to agree to real action with clear timetables."

Juniper

Friends of the Earth Executive Director Tony Juniper (Photo courtesy WTO)
"By downplaying clear targets and frameworks," Juniper said, "the Prime Minister is ignoring calls from UK companies who want a clear framework to operate within now. There has been a lot of discussion about the false choice between targets and technologies, but the reality is that without both we cannot achieve either."

The Gleneagles Dialogue, chaired by Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett and Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Johnson, focused on energy and technology, looking at how to move to a low carbon economy and how soon that goal can be reached.

Both British ministers said the Gleneagles Summit had added momentum to the international climate change process ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Montreal from November 27 through December 10. For the first time, this meeting will discuss action on climate change beyond 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas emission limits expire.

Johnson said the Gleneagles Dialogue underlined the broad consensus needed to tackle climate change, yet maintain economic growth.

"We now need to identify priorities for cooperation, in both the short and long term. And we need to set a clear context for the private sector to invest in low carbon technologies with signals that are "loud, long and legal," Johnson said.

Beckett said considerable progress had been made since Gleneagles under the UK's G8 Presidency all this year and EU Presidency since July 1. "It is imperative that we find new ways to cooperate and develop a shared understanding of how the world can respond to climate change. There is no greater challenge facing the world," she said.

Beckett pointed to new climate change partnerships agreed in the past few months with the two most populous developing countries.

Beckett

British Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett highlighted new technology agreements with developing countries. (Photo credit unknown)
"We have used our Presidency of the EU to agree new partnerships with both China and India on climate change," she said. "I am particularly pleased that we have agreed to work with China to develop and demonstrate carbon capture and storage technologies to enable power to be generated from near-zero emissions coal."

The proposal for a joint EU-China project on Near Zero Emissions Coal (nZEC) was announced at the EU-China Summit on September 5. This agreement was reached in recognition that carbon dioxide emissions from China's increasing coal use are set to double by 2030.

The nZEC project aims to demonstrate coal fired power generation with carbon capture and storage technology in China by 2020.

Carbon capture and storage involves capturing carbon dioxide from the combustion process and storing it underground in geological formations such as aquifiers and depleted oil fields. The technology has the potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by some 90 percent.

The UK is leading the first phase of the nZEC project and supporting it with £3.5 million for a three year feasibility study of different technology options for the capture of carbon dioxide emissions from power generation and the potential for geological storage in China.

The UK and India announced the launch of a joint study on how to reinforce cooperation on energy technology between developed and developing countries.

The study will identify potential policy, regulatory and financing barriers to technology cooperation, how to stimulate innovation in both developed and developing countries, as well as development at the national and international levels.

As developing countries, India and China are not governed by binding greenhouse gas targets under the Kyoto Protocol, but both countries have ratified the protocol and are moving towards limiting the emission of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide.

The 20 countries that participated in the Gleneagles Dialogue Tuesday are the G8: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States plus China, Mexico, India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, Australia, Spain, Poland, Nigeria and South Korea, and the European Commission.

Ministers were joined by Claude Mandil, executive director of the International Energy Agency, as well as Ian Johnson and Kathy Sierra, the World Bank vice presidents for environment and infrastructure. The IEA and World Bank are presenting an action plan to meet the challenge of access to reliable and affordable energy within a stable, sustainable climate.

The World Bank has launched an Energy Investment Framework, which will be used to pilot large-scale investment in major challenges, such as power generation and transport systems, in developing countries.

The Framework will include the regional development banks, private sector banks, insurers and technology companies.

UK Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Johnson said the International Energy Agency is already working to reduce the barriers to the development and deployment of low carbon technologies.

Johnson

UK Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Johnson (Photo courtesy UK Government)
"I am very pleased that the International Energy Agency is so closely involved, bringing to the table its world-renowned expertise on issues such as hydrogen storage and cleaner coal technology," Johnson said. "This work informs national technology programs, including the Department of Trade and Industry's recently launched £25 million Carbon Abatement Technology strategy."

The multi-stakeholder Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) launched by the UK and other partners at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development in August 2002 has grown to include 30 partner governments, G8 Dialogue participants learned.

All the G8 partners except Russia have now signed up, and the United States has cited REEEP as an important part of its international work on sustainable energy. The UK plans to invest a further £5 million pounds through 2008.

The funding will support projects to develop "robust policies, favorable, transparent and stable regulatory frameworks, and new forms of financing to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency," the UK ministers said.

REEEP already is delivering support to a Bangkok based company to establish a € 50 million fund to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in China, India and Southeast Asia.

At the national level, progress has been made with new energy legislation in the United States and France that approves stronger incentives for clean energy, including low-carbon vehicles and more efficient buildings.

Action has been taken in many countries to improve energy efficiency, including specific measures to tackle energy waste from appliances on standby.

The Gleneagles Dialogue participants recognized that support is growing for the inclusion of the aviation industry into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, there is a new voluntary agreement with industry on aviation fuel consumption in Canada, and research programs in the United States aim to achieve major technological breakthroughs.

But Friends of the Earth is worried that the urge toward economic development may overtake the concern about global warming. The campaign group is calling on the Blair Government to introduce legislation which would require annual cuts in carbon dioxide emissions of three percent which they say would bring carbon dioxide emissions back under control.

"Climate change is the most urgent and serious challenge faced by the global community – and we need leadership to adapt the global economy to deal with it," Juniper said. "The Prime Minister’s move away from a target-based approach could have disastrous consequences."



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