Breaking the Climate Deadlock: Rt Hon Tony Blair Presents His Report

27 June 2008

TOKYO, JAPAN - Transcript of the speech by Rt Hon Tony Blair at the Report Launch of Breaking the Climate Deadlock: A Global Deal for our Low Carbon Future


The problem of climate change is now, almost universally understood and acknowledged. This is in itself a major achievement. But now is the moment to get serious about the solution.

Such a solution has to be global. It must include America and China.

It has to be radical. It must put the world on a path away from carbon dependence to a new and green economy.

It has to be realistic. It has to take account of the completely legitimate right of people - especially the world's poorest - to enjoy the benefits of economic growth and prosperity spread to all.

There has been a vast amount of work to get us to here. The UN process led brilliantly and often heroically by Yvo de Boer has set out the international community's roadmap to a deal; which will culminate in the negotiation in Copenhagen in December next year.

The IPCC panel of experts led with such distinction by Dr. Pachauri has examined and laid out the scientific consensus.

Here in Japan, we can see how the political agenda has been shaped and changed, first by PM Abe's Cool Earth policy and now under the leadership of PM Fukuda, who leads this year's G8.

Our's is a report drawn up by experts but guided by a politician.

Our work is split into two phases. Phase 1 is for this G8. Phase 2 will be for next year's.

Phase 1 is an attempt to clarify and order the agenda for the solution. Phase 2 will attempt to set out what the solution might be.

Phase 1 is in part analytical and technical; in part about how to make sense of the political process.

It is about trying to unite the scientists and experts with the political leaders and decision-makers.

As such it is explicitly designed to be a practical way through; not yet another campaigning polemic to wake the world up to the challenges of global warming. The world has woken up. But now it needs to know what to do.

The report warns of the danger of a yawning chasm between, on the one hand the calls for radical action from scientists, environmental groups and people rightly alarmed at the effect of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet; and on the other, the anxiety of decision makers in politics and business, who share the aims of the radical action but worry about whether that action is realistic. Long-term everyone accepts that the needs of economy and environment are in partnership. Short-term there is a clear tension. And we live in the short-term.

The report tries to design a way to bridge this chasm.

There is a blunt reality that we need to acknowledge amongst all the talk of targets, goals and obligations.

The climate demands, over time, a radical, transformative change in the nature of the world economy, moving from growth built on carbon dependence, to environmentally sustainable development.

But we need to be clear about the size of the task.

The US emissions are still growing. So are those in Japan.

In Europe they are static.

China and India are set, rightly, to industrialise and move their vast hundreds of millions of poor people from subsistence agriculture to the modern economy.

We are talking of a global 2050 target of at least a 50% cut in emissions. But let's be clear. This date is decades away and decades beyond the political life of any government.

The key challenge is to describe a realistic pathway to it.

That implies shorter term goals. But these are immensely demanding, asking developed economies to move from growth in emissions to significant cuts within 10-15 years.

Europe has very bold 2020 targets and it will take very bold action to achieve them. The recent Warner-Lieberman Bill before the US Senate implied 5% cuts in emissions by 2020. That would be a big step forward but, according to some scientists, it falls short of the cuts necessary for world emissions to peak in 2020. China has set a target of a 20% cut in energy intensity by 2010; a huge step forward. This is again immensely demanding but even if met, will not cut overall emissions, given China's need for growth. India, again wanting to act, also wants to grow.

So the challenge is truly profound. It is as technically and scientifically complex, as politically sensitive and as institutionally fraught as any the international community has had to deal with since the post-war Bretton Woods economic settlement.

And, above all at this point, it should be noted, our knowledge of the issue is constantly evolving. Though we talk as if the science were certain - its overall purport may be, the precise details are often open to substantial debate.

Therefore what this report proposes, is an approach to the Copenhagen agreement at the end of 2009 that does not attempt a deal that tries to resolve all issues up to 2050 or even 2030 or 2020. But instead begins a process that will then undergo revision and adjustment as our knowledge improves and the facts become clearer.

So we propose:

1. Set a clear direction in Copenhagen and get the action under way. Do not try to put a spurious precision on each and every aspect. Set a realistic target and get the change started. Make Copenhagen the beginning but not the end of a process that will require constant adjustment over the years.

2. Carry on through to next year's G8 the informal process whereby G8 and the developing world major economies continue to try to resolve core questions. Together G8+5 and MEM represent three quarters of the global emissions. A steer from them is an essential precondition to a deal. This doesn't supplant the UN process. It supports it.

3. There are a plethora of really tricky questions that need answering before a serious negotiation can work. We detail these in the report. It is surely wise to commission work and research on them, making full use of the enormous range of non-governmental bodies, institutes and experts, many of whom contribute to the UN's work.

The G8 should agree a work plan through to next year, to get this work done. For example:

How do we raise the money? Is there a place for auctioning credits? If so, how would it work?

Is the CDM the right mechanism? Can it be reformed?

How do carbon markets link up? Should the developing world have access to them?

How do we transfer technology? Do we need a new IPR regime?

In this, Phase 1, we have identified the 10 building blocks of a global deal.

1 The global target

2 An interim target

3 Developed world commitments and carbon markets

4 Developing world contributions

5 Sectoral action

6 Financing

7 Technology

8 Forests

9 Adaptation

10 Institutions and mechanisms of action

We have tried in this way to isolate the key elements that will need agreement and the further work to clarify each of them. We also identify significant facts whose significance is nonetheless often lost.

Energy efficiency would provide around one quarter of the gains necessary and, incidentally, save money. It requires special focus...

The vast majority of new power stations in China and India will be coal-fired; not "may be coal-fired"; will be. So developing carbon capture and storage technology is not optional, it is literally of the essence.

Without at least some countries engaging in a substantial renaissance of nuclear power, it is hard to see how any global deal could work.

For developing countries to grow sustainably they will need funds and technology, otherwise they will not be able to peak and then reduce emissions within the necessary timescale.

Deforestation amounts to around 15-20 percent of the entire emissions problem.

Certain key sectors like cement, steel and of course power most of all, account for a huge percentage - almost half of all emissions.

Airline and shipping emissions, though only 5 percent today, are a fast growing part of the problem.

Done right, the costs of abatement will be manageable and probably less than predicted; and there are potentially real opportunities for the new low-carbon economy that will develop.

In the end this is the question:

What is it reasonable to ask countries to do on their own?

What more could be done, if the right partnership was in place for a global deal?

i.e. How do we, by use of global mechanisms, accelerate the process of change in individual countries?

There may be a gap between what it is reasonable to do; and what is necessary for the climate to survive.

The global deal is about eliminating that gap.

The aim of phase two of the report will be to try to show how the building blocks can be arranged in a cohesive global deal. In particular we will try to bridge the chasm earlier described between the entirely understandable demands for radical action to save the environment and the equally understandable desire for countries to enjoy economic growth and prosperity in a world in which the majority, at present are still poor.

Finally, some good news. It is clear the deal can be done. Indeed long term there will be benefits not just to the environment but to the economy in doing it. But short-term we need to get it right. That is what we will try to help.


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