Blair: Why I’m backing climate deal

Series Title
Series Details Vol 7, No.15, 12.4.01, p14
Publication Date 12/04/2001
Content Type

Date: 12/04/01

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair made an impassioned plea this week in support of tackling the threat to the environment and urging a re-think on EU farm policy. An edited version of his comments follows:

When my parents were growing up the world's population was under three billion. During my children's lifetime, it is likely to exceed nine billion. You don't have to be an expert to realise that sustainable development is going to become the greatest challenge we face this century.

We have already seen enormous changes over my lifetime. The six warmest years of the 20th century occurred in the last decade. Snow and ice cover is estimated to have decreased by 10% since the 1960s. Since 1980, 10% of the forests in the developing world have been lost.

This process is accelerating. By 2100, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could be between 90% and 250% higher than in 1750. We would be irresponsible to treat these predictions as scaremongering.

The Kyoto process stands as a monument to enlightened global diplomacy; the first real step down the road of collective action to meet our collective responsibility.

But as the negotiations in The Hague showed, implementing Kyoto will be difficult. The EU and the US are the key to finding a way through. I am pleased that the G8 environment ministers committed themselves at Trieste to strive to reach agreement at the resumed negotiations in Bonn in July. By the time we meet in South Africa for the Rio + 10 Conference next year, I hope Kyoto will have been ratified.

We need to put business, technology and environmental protection in harness together. I believe the role of government is to accelerate the development and take up of new technologies until self-sustaining markets take over. We need vastly to improve our productive use of resources - do more with much less.

Climate change and population growth have enormous implications for food production. But inappropriate agricultural policies in the developed world can also harm the local environment and undermine sustainable food production globally.

For us in Europe, this means summoning up the political will to reform the Common Agricultural Policy. The CAP was conceived four decades ago as a means of overcoming food shortages and maintaining farmers' incomes. But, with its reliance on market intervention, export subsidy and import protection it is now seriously outmoded.

It distorts global markets and promotes forms of agricultural production that damage the environment. The opportunity to change direction is the silver lining in the European farming crisis.

We must work to reform the CAP so that resources are redirected towards the goals of sustainable and competitive farming, environmental protection and rural development.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair makes an impassioned plea in support of tackling the threat to the environment and urging a re-think on EU farm policy.

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