Blair urges G8 to agree 2050 climate pact


Former British prime minister Tony Blair has urged the Group of Eight rich nations to agree to a global goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, despite signs that top carbon emitter - US - would not back the target.

"What we should do this year is to establish the workplan necessary so that we can get an interim target next year that is realistic" - Blair told a news conference. "For this year's Japan G8, the essential thing is - get the global 2050 target agreed and then get the elements that will go into the package for next year."

Blair, who is in Tokyo to present a report by the non-profit Climate Group, said that an agreement at the G8 summit in Hokkaido, in northern Japan - from July 7-9 - would be key to kick-starting discussions for an interim emissions reduction target next year.

Pressure is mounting from environmentalists for the G8 to come up with medium-term targets, even before 2050. However, a wide gulf exists within the group and between richer and poorer nations over how to share the burden of fighting climate change, which many experts link to droughts and changing weather patterns and expect to bring rising sea levels.

Japan has yet to persuade the United States to agree to the mid-century goal, a Japanese government source said, re-igniting doubts as to how far the G8 will be able to go beyond its agreement last year to "seriously consider" the goal.

Tokyo wants the G8 meeting and an expanded meeting with eight other major economies - including China - to build momentum for UN-led talks on a climate framework to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

The Kyoto pact's first phase obliges many industrialised nations to curb emissions between 2008-12 and the aim for the next stage is to bind all nations to reductions.

Part of the solution to cutting future emissions would be a renaissance in nuclear power, Blair said, although he noted that the world's long aversion to nuclear energy meant technology was not readily available. "There is going to be a renaissance in nuclear power, partly to do for reasons with climate change and partly to do for reasons with energy security" - he told reporters.

"But here's the problem - because of the way we've turned away from nuclear energy in the past couple of decades, we've got a situation where, frankly, we don't have the expertise to develop nuclear power in the way that it needs to and at the speed we need to."