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Blair unsettles greens, edges away from Kyoto

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UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday that the solutions to climate change lay not in externally imposed emissions targets, but in developing new, green technology.

Speaking at an international conference on climate change, Blair noted that legally binding targets on emissions, such as those laid out in the Kyoto Protocol, "make people very nervous".

"The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge," he said. Downing street later denied that his comments represented a policy shift, The Guardian reports.

He said that post-Kyoto (the treaty runs out in 2012), the world would need a more economically sensitive approach to tackling emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol requires industrialised nations, like the UK, to cut their greenhouse emissions by 5.2 per cent by 2012, as compared to levels in 1990. The UK had said it would reduce its emissions further, gunning for a 20 per cent drop in CO2 emissions by 2010. However, that now looks unlikely.

Meanwhile the US refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, complaining that developing nations like India and China were exempt, and that the requirements would hurt the US economy.

Blair has previously had to refute suggestions that he is moving to a more US-style approach to climate change, following similar comments in a meeting with Bill Clinton in New York.

"All economies know that the only sensible, long-term way to develop is to do it on a sustainable basis," he said.

Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth argued that by downplaying clear targets and frameworks "the Prime Minister is ignoring calls from UK companies who want a clear framework to operate within now."

He told the Environment News Service: "There has been a lot of discussion about the false choice between targets and technologies, but the reality is that without both we cannot achieve either." ®

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