Tony Blair: help the poor cut emissions because 'climate doesn't care where they're from'

Former UK prime minister says rich countries must use Cop26 to decarbonise Africa

Tony Blair in conversation with John Kerry: it's too late to reach net zero carbon by 2050

Tony Blair in conversation with John Kerry: it's too late to reach net zero carbon by 2050
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Rich countries must help the developing world to build green economies because “the climate doesn’t care where emissions come from,” Tony Blair has said.

The former UK prime minister said emissions cuts by wealthy nations would be of no use if they are cancelled out by economic growth in the global south.

In a new paper, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change called for rich nations to use November’s Cop26 climate summit to set out a clear plan to decarbonise lower-income nations.

He spoke at an event hosted by London’s Science Museum on Thursday with US climate envoy John Kerry, who said coal-reliant countries needed scientific help to move to cleaner energies.

“The key is not — you have to stop growing. The key is, we’re going to put the right technologies and methodologies and help you to grow in a sustainable and clean way,” Mr Kerry said.

The developing world’s demands for Cop26 include the fulfilment of a long-standing promise to deliver $100 billion a year in climate funds.

Many countries in Africa are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather caused by climate change, such as floods and droughts.

“Developing nations, poor people, are going to get hit the hardest if we don’t move,” Mr Kerry said.

The US envoy called for the world’s biggest emitters to secure the $100bn funds which were first pledged at a Copenhagen summit in 2009.

But Mr Blair said more was needed, with developing countries needing not only money but help to grow in a sustainable way.

“The reality is the developing world needs to develop, they need that to feed their people, to give their people the benefits of the modern world,” he said.

“It’s going to require each of these countries to really have a specific plan for how they grow sustainably.

“In the end, of course, if you can’t get the developing world to grow sustainably, then even if the developed world takes the measures we want to see — the climate doesn’t care where emissions come from.”

The paper by Mr Blair’s institute said it was unrealistic for poorer countries to develop without any reliance on fossil fuels.

But it said that rich nations could help to minimise this problem by providing expertise on using renewable energies.

G20 countries are under pressure to speed up their own fossil fuel cuts, having spent $3.3 trillion subsidising them since the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Britain, which is hosting Cop26, is gathering pledges from governments and businesses to reduce their net emissions to zero by 2050.

This is regarded as crucial to meeting the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Mr Kerry said the green transition did not have to be about “doom and gloom” but would help to spur economic growth.

“People are chasing new technologies. We have the ability to go on an incredible technology journey here,” he said.

Criticised in the past for his confidence in future technology, Mr Kerry said it did not exempt the world from having to take action now.

But he said: “I am confident that we’re going to have breakthroughs that are going to help facilitate this effort, and the jobs that can be created are extraordinary.”

Updated: July 30, 2021, 12:32 PM