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18 July 2024

Blair calls for urgent world action against global warming

General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed visits an exhibition on the sidelines of the World Future Energy Summit. (WAM)

By Nissar Hoath

Former British prime minister Tony Blair has made an appeal to the developed world to show seriousness in saving the planet from global warming.

Blair, who is leading the Breaking the Climate Deadlock Initiative, a group working with world leaders to develop an international climate policy framework, yesterday made the call in his closing speech at the three-day World Future Energy Summit that concluded at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Centre.

The closing ceremony was attended by General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Dr Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of Masdar – the host of the summit.

Also among the speakers was Quentin Bryce, Governor General of Australia, who spoke about the energy demand and clean energy efforts of Australia.

Blair made a strong and emotional appeal to the world community to act immediately and save the earth from the impacts of carbon dioxide emissions by initiating an international action plan for emission control and urgent investments in clean energy technologies.

"It is now, right now, at the instant when our thoughts are centred on economic challenges, that we must not set to one side the challenge of global warming, but instead resolve to meet it and put the world on a path to sustainable growth," he told the summit.

Blair began his speech by welcoming US President Barack Obama's inauguration amidst loud applause from the packed audience.

"This is a remarkable summit, now established as the premier energy summit of the world. It comes also at a remarkable time. Yesterday we saw the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States – an American of African origin, a Christian but with a Muslim heritage; something the world doubted it would ever see – seen across the world, bringing new hope, expectation and possibility," he said.

"On his shoulders rests a heavy burden of responsibility. The economic crisis is still with us, evolving and deepening. The events of the past weeks in Gaza illustrate the urgent necessity of finding and pursuing the path to peace in the Middle East. And 2009 should be the year we summon the will and wit to conclude a new treaty on climate change, one which will have America as a signatory," he added.

Blair said the challenges are immense and the new president will have need "not just of cheerleaders but of partners, not just of spectators wishing him to do good but of supporters helping to do it". "It is hard at this moment of immediate crisis to focus on the longer term challenge our environment faces. But it is necessary. For presidents and prime ministers the problems do not come sequentially or in disciplined order of priority. The agenda sets itself.

"What is more, I would argue that the current economic woes provide us not with an excuse for inaction but a reason for acting. Let us stimulate economic growth by investing in alternative energy and energy efficiency. And let us invest now in these times of lower carbon price to prepare for the times when that price rises again. Let us put economic growth and combating climate change in alliance, not opposition. Without a global agreement, the task cannot be done. We cannot wait for things to take their course. We must change course to do it, do it together and do it now."

Blair further called for developing technologies, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS), on a much quicker time scale than currently envisaged He said: "One is solar. Another is the electric car. A third is carbon capture and storage. One stark fact stands out to me. More than 70 per cent of the new power stations in China and India over the next decade will be coal fired. That is a mind boggling increase in carbon use. Unless we find a way – and I mean urgently – to advance CCS technology, the challenge, already great, will become even graver."

Blair also called for a long-term global fund investing in clean energy technologies. "We will be compelled to develop a global system of financing some of the change and, most particularly, the costs of adaptation. We must reform the Clean Development Mechanism of Kyoto or invent another way to generate the funds," he said.