News from the GREEN PARTY

Greens welcome IPPR statement that "Kyoto won't stop climate change"

Beckett speaks of "precautionary approach" on climate -
but Greens warn of more spin, demand genuine action

A leading Labour think-tank announces today that the Kyoto climate treaty won't stop global warming - and the government should adopt the "contraction and convergence" policy advocated for years by the Green Party (1).

The Institute for Public Policy Research makes this assertion in its journal New Economy, published today, in which Defra minister Margaret Beckett argues: "Given the dire consequences and irreversibility of climate change, we should be guided by the precautionary approach" (2).

But the Green Party, while welcoming further recognition of the inadequacy of the government's current position, warned of a fresh round of New Labour spin on climate change.

John Whitelegg, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of York (3) , commented today: "We've heard all this before. Tony Blair has made a number of speeches saying climate change would be a disaster, but he still puts far more effort into things that promote climate change than things that help stop it. (4)

"The IPPR's new statement isn't hugely significant in itself - they're only saying what the Green Party has been saying for years - but it is nonetheless something of a milestone, because the IPPR often serves to help draw the government's attention to views that others have been advocating for some time."

Greens wary of more spin without more action

The Greens say that while the IPPR's pronouncement will probably make headlines, the Green Party was pointing out in 1997 that Kyoto couldn't stop climate change because the targets it contained were very far short of what the world's scientists were saying was needed to tackle global warming.

Professor Whitelegg, who is believed to be on the brink of accepting a key national role in the party for the build-up towards next year's crucial European elections (5), continued: "The Greens pointed out when the Kyoto Protocol was first agreed that although it provided a useful framework it would achieve nothing if it didn't set meaningful targets.

"Blair and Prescott have boasted about 'leading the world' in terms of Kyoto, but all they'd done was agree to a treaty aimed at 5% CO2 reductions by 2012, with slightly higher but still completely inadequate targets for the UK (6).

"Since then they've acknowledged that stopping climate change means achieving 60% CO2 reductions globally by 2050, but in typical New Labour style they've called this an 'aspiration' (7), which is their way of avoiding the need to decide on policies to meet definite targets.

"New Labour has completely failed to grasp that 60% global reductions means a 90% reduction in high-polluting countries like the UK."

He concluded:

"Blair also failed to persuade President Bush to ratify Kyoto, although he completely supported Bush's war to safeguard the oil supplies needed by the world's biggest and most irresponsible polluter."

Notes to editors:

1. Contraction and convergence was first put forward by the Global Commons Institute (www.gci.org.uk). It is the policy whereby (a) the amount of CO2 cuts necessary to avert the worst consequences of climate change is calculated on a global per capita basis, taking account of historical as well as current emissions; (b) while the world as a whole contracts its emissions by the necessary amount, all countries work towards a convergence of their annual per capita emissions.

2. Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs writing in next month's New Economy, argues that "Given the dire consequences and irreversibility of climate change, we should be guided by the precautionary approach…In my view, this means adhering to a course of action that will keep temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels." (Quoted in IPPR press release of 5 August 2003, embargoed for 7 August.)

3. John Whitelegg is also Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University and Chief Policy Advisor on Transport to the Green Party of England & Wales, and has been selected to lead the Green Party's Euro-election campaign in the North West next year, when he is expected to become an MEP.

4. The government's recent announcement of £6 billion for non-nuclear renewables was overshadowed by the announcement the same week of £7 billion for roadbuilding schemes. In fact the government's emissions-increasing policy of spending £30 billion on new roads over 10 years is overshadowed by its support for aviation. Every year the government effectively gives a £9 billion tax-break to the aviation industry - equivalent to £90 billion over 10 years in the industry which is the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. See http://www.greenparty.org.uk/reports/2003/1nf%20briefing%20text%205.htm .

5. "Green Cabinet" reshuffle imminent - decisions expected soon.

6. Today's IPPR press release says: "The Kyoto Protocol is an important first step, but even with full implementation it shows no sign of delivering the drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that scientists call for. Kyoto delivers only a one to two per cent cut in emissions from industrial nations while total global emissions will increase by 70 per cent."

7. Energy White Paper, February 2003, referred to in today's IPPR press release.

Green Party policy on climate change can be found at http://www.greenparty.org.uk/policy/mfss/climchg.html .

For more information, go to www.greenparty.org.uk/search and search for "contraction and convergence" or "climate change".

Interviews/comment: call Green Party press office, 020 7561 0282