Blair: Climate efforts no reason to give up cars

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Former UK prime minister Tony Blair, a contender for the post of the EU’s first president, last week (20 August 2009) praised China’s low-carbon drive, stressing that low-carbon technology, not giving up car ownership, would pave the way for a sustainable transport future.

The comments were made at the launch of a new report from Blair’s Climate Group in Beijing, the Guardian newspaper reported. 

The report argues that China has taken the lead in developing and commercialising a range of low-carbon technologies, becoming a top producer of electric vehicles, wind turbines, solar panels and energy-efficient appliances.

The Climate Group forecasts that cars on China’s roads will triple to 150 million by 2020, producing 20% of global CO2 emissions. But the solution is not to sacrifice car ownership, but rather to intensify both the government’s and the industry’s efforts to develop electric cars, fuel-cell vehicles and other forms of low-carbon transport, as well as the necessary infrastructure, including recharging stations.

“I think the way we consume has to change, but I think it is completely unrealistic to say to people you can’t have a car, you can’t use a motorbike. It is just not going to happen,” Blair said. 

He warned that Western nations cannot tell the Chinese that they must not seek the same scale of economic growth as the industrialised nations have experienced in because they need to save the planet.

China already has 50 million electric bicycles and motorcycles, and 60% of the country’s auto market is covered by energy-efficient compact cars, the Climate Group points out.

The Chinese government’s four trillion Yuan ($585 billion) economic stimulus package had a strong green dimension and was further backed with new policies supporting the uptake of low-carbon technologies, the report argues. Earlier this month, China’s cabinet said that all levels of government should consider climate objectives as part of their development plans.

The energy intensity of the Chinese economy has already fallen by over 60% since 1980, and the government’s goal is to bring it down by a further 20% between 2005 and 2010, the report notes. Moreover, China has put in place policies to boost the uptake of renewable energies: it now supplies 30% of the world’s solar photovoltaic technology and is the fourth largest wind power generator in the world, it concludes.

Chinese experts said earlier this month that in the most ambitious scenario, China’s emissions could peak in 2030. But as the global community is negotiating a new climate treaty to stop runaway global warming, the country, the world’s biggest emitter of global-warming gases, has refused to make a political commitment to cap its emissions (EURACTIV 15/07/09).

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