Blair calls for environmental "reawakening"

UK prime minister urges "new coalition" with central aim of improved resource productivity

UK prime minister Tony Blair today called for a new partnership between government, business and environmental groups to "reawaken" the environmental agenda. Improved resource efficiency should be its central aim, he said. Mr Blair was making his first major speech on environmental issues since taking office in 1997.

Under increasing political pressure over high road fuel taxes, introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops, greenfield housing development and continuing growth in road traffic, Mr Blair's speech is being seen as an attempt to retake the initiative on environmental issues.

"We need to build a new coalition for the environment, a coalition that works with the grain of consumers, business and science and not against them," he told an audience in London. "A coalition that harnesses consumer demand for a better environment and encourages businesses to see the profit of the new green technologies, and a coalition that stretches right across national frontiers."

The central goal for future policy making should be "more productive use of environmental resources," Mr Blair said. He noted that some commentators predict a need for a factor-ten increase in the economy's eco-efficiency by 2050 "only to stand still". The UK industry ministry recently adopted improved resource productivity as its central environmental aim (ENDS Daily 6 October).

Mr Blair announced a number of new initiatives, including UK£150m (euros 254m) of extra funding for environmental initiatives. One-third of this is to support offshore wind and biomass renewable energy development, one-third to boost separate collection of household waste and one-third to improve quality of life in rural and urban areas.

A new government "Kyoto mechanisms office" is to be launched in April to promote export of British low-carbon technologies, Mr Blair confirmed. He also announced a "comprehensive study" into renewable energy "with a view to increasing substantially our long-term investment". The announcement could herald an increase in the medium term in the government's 10% by 2010 target for renewables (ENDS Daily 5 October).

The prime minister officially launched a new "sustainable development commission," to be chaired by leading environmentalist Jonathon Porritt. He also echoed environment minister Michael Meacher's repeated demand (ENDS Daily 2 March) for the UK's top companies to publish annual environmental reports.

Follow Up:
UK prime minister's office, tel: +44 20 79 30 44 33, and Mr Blair's speech.

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