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PM Blair's Letter in Support of Stop Climate Chaos

Dear Stop Climate Chaos,

I am pleased you have created a new coalition to fight for action on climate change. The cost of inaction is clear. Almost every day, there is new evidence of how our climate is becoming more extreme and the impact on people and our environment. Every week, there are new and authoritative scientific studies warning that, without urgent action, this may be just a taste of what the future holds.

So I understand frustrations about the seemingly slow progress in rising to the threat to our planet and our children. I have said repeatedly that I believe climate change is, without doubt, the major long-term threat facing our planet. It was why I made it, along with Africa, one of the two key issues for the UK's Presidency of the G8.

It is not surprising that recently Britain has ranked 5th amongst all the nations of the world in its commitment to the environment. We are one of the few countries in the world to have a climate change levy and accompanying climate change programmes that will, according to independent estimates, reduce carbon emissions by over 7m tonnes by 2010. By starting the G8 plus 5 dialogue at Gleneagles, we began the process that gives us the only hope of beating climate change. Action on climate change without America, India and China in agreement, and all committed to a framework for reducing green house gas emissions, is not going to work.

That is the brutal truth. Now at least the possibility of such an agreement has been opened up. I believe strongly, if we have the courage and commitment to build on this progress, that history will judge 2005 as the turning point in getting the world to face up to climate change. It is easy to forget that only 12 months ago, there were still powerful voices doubting the scale and even the nature of the threat we faced. That's no longer the case. We now have virtual universal agreement on the science of climate change.

There has been a welcome development, too, in the position of the United States at Gleneagles, as President Bush's State of the Union address last month underlined which enabled a new dialogue on the way forward between all the world's 20 largest energy using countries. This helped lay the ground for a commitment at Montreal by Kyoto signatories of the need to review their targets and by all countries, including the US, China, India and Brazil, to discuss what new framework is needed post 2012. This is greater progress than all but the most optimistic critics would have expected 12 months ago. But I fully accept it is not enough. So what are the next challenges we face and how can we overcome them?

First, we have to do more to control our own output of greenhouse gases. Based on current measures the UK is one of just two pre-2005 EU members on track to meet our Kyoto targets but we have work to do to meet our own goal of a 20% reduction in Carbon Dioxide emissions by 2010. It will involve hard decisions. It is fine for those like the Tories to argue that more must be done. But you can't oppose the Climate Change Levy as the Tories do, having nothing but a long-term review group to put in its place and expect to be taken seriously.

The Chancellor and Transport Secretary have already announced that 5% of fuel sold on forecourts will be bio fuel by 2010. Our Climate Change Programme Review, to be published next month, will outline concrete action for each major area of emissions. I also know Stop Climate Chaos is developing proposals for more action and we will look seriously at these. We will also encourage individuals and business to play their part.

For we have to accept that cutting domestic emissions is not a responsibility for Government alone. Government can give a lead. We can and will encourage changes in behaviour. In the end, though, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change will be a responsibility for every one of us in our daily lives.

We also have to understand that, important as it is to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions, the bigger battle against climate change will be international. This is not trying to shift the blame. It is about looking at the facts.

At the moment, the UK accounts for something like 2% of greenhouse gases. By 2020 as the world economy continues to grow, this proportion will have fallen to 1.5%. Even the most extreme and unrealistic action taken in the UK will have only a tiny impact on global climate change. Even more crucially, it would do nothing to protect us from its worst effects. I am afraid that, in this case, being virtuous alone will not bring much reward.

We need to start with a stronger European strategy including extending the Emissions Trading Scheme beyond 2012 and making it more robust. Rewarding carbon reduction is vital to enable the sensible investment and policy decisions we need. I will work hard this year with other European leaders to getagreement on this and to agree a range of new measures to increase energy efficiency.

I know others, including Chancellor Merkel, share this view and a determination not to fail. Across the world, too, we need to provide a clear, early signal to the private sector that there will be carbon markets after 2012. For we now all recognise the vital role of technology in finding a sustainable solution to climate change which is one where cutting carbon emissions goes hand- in-hand with continued prosperity. This needs a new understanding of the economic, technological and business opportunities from a low carbon, energy efficient path.

The Stern review on the economics of climate change will add to our understanding of this and - I hope - start to change the debate on climate change from one which pits economic costs against environmental benefits, to one which recognises that there are economic costs and benefits to both action and inaction on climate change.

We need, in particular, stronger action to boost investment in research into cleaner technology, to bring that technology from design to manufacture and to enable it to be used in developed and developing world. Some of this shortfall is already being addressed, as a result of Gleneagles, through the Energy Investment Framework being led by the World Bank, designed to increase the flows of investment into low carbon energy sources, energy efficiency and adaptation.

But above all, internationally, the best stimulus to the action needed to reduce emissions and create the right incentives for investment in clean technology will be to decide what level we should aim to stabilise green house gas concentrations and global temperature levels. This must be the heart of future negotiations on climate change, bringing together science and economics.

I know how politically challenging all this will be. But we have no alternative but to do it. This is an absolutely critical decision for this generation of leaders. It should be at the top of all our agendas. We also have to accept that whatever action we now take, we can't stop climate change completely and it will hit hardest those countries and continents who already have the greatest problems. We have to work together to help them adapt to the extra pressure this will put on food, water and health.

I remember the doubts expressed last year about the chances of winning an international agreement to help Africa tackle its problems. I recall, too, that public opinion was at least as important as political leadership and will be in overcoming the obstacles to this deal. The pressure applied by the Make Poverty History Campaign and Live 8 showed how strongly the world cared about this issue. It created the climate in which world leaders were prepared to go the extra mile to make progress.

So although I know it won't always make comfortable reading for me, I welcome the growing public campaign, led by Stop Climate Chaos, for action on global warming. Together I believe, just as on Africa, we can make a difference. And we must.

Tony Blair

© Scoop Media

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