THE COMMON ground between Tony Blair and George Bush extends beyond the murderous war in Iraq. When he took office in 2000 Bush refused to sign up to the Kyoto agreement—the international deal to cut emissions of greenhouse gases and slow global warming.
Now, following lobbying by industrialists, Blair has also come down firmly on the side of big business, and against the environment, by increasing the amount of greenhouse gases companies will be allowed to emit in Britain.
The revised targets mean that British companies will be able to pump out 252 tonnes of these gases each year—a cut of just 0.9 tonnes from the amount emitted annually between 1998 and 2002.
On this basis the government will reach its target of cutting emissions by 60 percent somewhat later than previously expected—probably some time around the year 2504.
Without serious action now it is unlikely that anyone will be around to welcome this. If all greenhouse gas emissions stopped tomorrow, average temperatures could still peak at 1.3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Scientists believe that if average temperatures reach 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels the ice sheets that cover Greenland would melt and the Amazon rainforest ecosystem would be destroyed, heralding changes to the earth’s climate on an apocalyptic scale.
Environmental campaigners now fear that other European governments will follow Blair’s lead, revising their own emissions targets upwards. These decisions will save money for polluting corporations, but they will cost lives in Europe as mosquito-borne diseases like the West Nile virus—now endemic in the US—malaria and dengue fever spread north.
The impact in the Third World, already hit by unprecedented floods, droughts and disease outbreaks, will be even more lethal.
A useful rule of journalism
It’s never wise to write a news story before the event. Last week the Economist magazine carried a report saying that Respect was falling apart.
Shortly afterwards Respect had a hugely successful conference which brought together a more diverse and interesting group of people than those who gather round the Economist’s editorial table.
Coming out of the conference Respect now has more far-reaching policies on a battery of issues—ranging from the rights of refugees to a women’s right to choose—than any other party in Britain.
Respect’s electoral success clearly stung someone at the Economist, which is after all the top people’s read. And that can be no bad thing!
Which party leader would say this?
Who told the Institute of Directors last week that his party has “always been about encouraging enterprise, competition and markets”?
The same politician went on to call for the privatisation of the Royal Mint, and summarised his programme as, “Economic stability and financial responsibility, tough choices in spending priorities, fairer taxation, and free enterprise.”
Take a bow Charles Kennedy, leader of the Liberal Democrats.