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Blair's blooper on air travel

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Blair, Monday: I'm not offsetting carbon. Blair, yesterday: Er, I've had a rethink

Will Woodward and Nicholas Watt, The Guardian
· Overnight convert to merit of personal responsibility
· Greens now urge PM to set example by flying less

Tony Blair tried last night to restore his green credentials by announcing that he would offset carbon emissions from his and his family's holiday travel.

Downing Street made the concession after the two lobby briefings yesterday were dominated by Mr Blair's insistence that he had no intention of cutting back on personal flights.

Mr Blair's official spokesman suddenly announced last night that the prime minister had asked "this week" for officials to find ways to make his holiday flights carbon neutral, beginning with last month's trip to Miami.

Downing Street had been forced on the defensive - and eventually into a U-turn - after the Guardian published on its front page comments made by Mr Blair in an interview with Sky News. The prime minister's declaration that he wasn't going to lead by example on the issue of holiday flights was reported under the headline, "Carry on flying, says Blair - science will save the planet".

"I personally think these things are a bit impractical, actually to expect people to do that," Mr Blair told Sky. "It's like telling people you shouldn't drive anywhere."

On Monday Mr Blair's office told the Guardian it was "not prepared to comment" further on Mr Blair's personal travel. But yesterday it announced that he would offset the holiday and personal travel of his family, including his wife, Cherie, and their four children. According to the Climate Care website, that amounts to offsetting 11.98 tonnes of CO2 for a return flight from Heathrow to Miami.
(11 Jan 2007)


Sins of emission

Tony Juniper, The Guardian
Tony Blair's advice that we should "carry on flying" sums up the British government's approach to climate change. On the one hand it is correctly held as the gravest threat facing our planet, and yet on the other we can just carry on as we are. How this can be squared with the aim of reducing emissions by at least 60% by 2050, a target supported by all the main UK political parties (and it will probably need to be more like 90%), is unclear.

I fear that the lack of clarity is linked to there being, at present, not much prospect of doing it.

Instead of taking the steps that would add credibility to his world-leading speeches and the ground-breaking policy analysis being done in the UK, including by Sir Nicholas Stern on the economics of climate change, we continue to travel in a direction that is contrary to what the science tells us we should do. Instead of reducing our emissions, they are presently going up, not least because of the fast-growing aviation sector.

"Tony Juniper is director of Friends of the Earth.
(11 Jan 2007)

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