Monday, June 04, 2007


Will the Real Tony Blair Stand up at Last?

The upcoming G8 meeting in Heiligendamn- focusing on global warming- offers Tony Blair a golden opportunity to display genuine independence from his putative soul mate, George Bush. How fitting for his swansong to forswear this longstanding shaming deference and prove that on this, an issue on which he feels passionately, he is his own man? I think so, and maybe you too, but is it likely?

Well, there are two hopeful signs. First we have some recognition by the USA that there is a problem and that emissions should be controlled. That's huge progress- a bit like a flat earther accepting that there just might be something over the horizon- but the worry is that the Bush suggestion that the biggest carbon emitters should get together to discuss a voluntary approach is not genuine but a ploy, inspired by the US energy lobby, to subvert the UN led effort to update the 1997 Kyoto Agreement.

Second we have the redoubtable Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's bold rejection of the Bush plan:

"The Brazilian position is clear cut, I cannot accept the idea that we have to build another group to discuss the same issues that were discussed in Kyoto and not fulfilled.

He sees no need to 'develop another institution' let alone eschew 'binding commitments' in exchange for mere 'voluntarism'.

Blair has already declared that it's too late for the 'luxury' of the five year delay it took to agree Kyoto. 'We must now move quickly' he urges, as the sands of own his time in the limelight drift away.

'Climate change poses a huge challenge...Now is the time to act. It is our duty to do so.'

So Blair has taken the lead in calling for urgent progress. The last thing he wants is an alternative sideways move into constructing new machinery, especially when the USA might merely use this to slow down or frustrate progress towards genuine binding agreements. It could be, as Larry Eliott explains, that some caucus of the big economic powers is probably a necessary presage to wider agreement- as this is the 'how the world works'- but it should all be done under the aegis of the UN.

To show his true metal at this late date, he needs to stand firm, forget his welcome of the Bush initiative as 'real progress' and insist the Bush fork in the road is ignored. He's going to find it difficult but he has to free himself from his security blanket relationship with the US president sometime soon, so why not now, when it can do the world, not to mention Blair's reputation, some real good?

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