The key to a new global climate change agreement will be a deal between the United States and China, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Friday. Blair also said climate change negotiators must find a way to integrate the United States, which has fallen far behind on controlling greenhouse gas emissions, into an agreement with Europe and other wealthy countries that have been working to reduce pollution for years.
An accord regulating the emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants is due to be concluded at a meeting of 190 nations in December in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Blair said the heart of that deal will be determining the responsibilities of both the developing countries and the industrial world. That can only happen once the United States has an understanding with China.
The US and China are the world's largest polluters, accounting for about half the world's carbon emissions.
After leaving office two years ago, Blair launched what he called his Breaking the Climate Deadlock Initiative, meant to bring together policy makers and businessmen in support of an agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. He also is a special envoy on the Israel-Palestinian conflict and works as an adviser to Rwanda and Sierra Leone on attracting investments and governance issues.
Neither the US nor China was part of the Kyoto accord, which called on 37 countries to cut carbon emissions by a total 5 percent below 1990 levels.
The US is now ready to be part of the Copenhagen agreement, but "they need a deal with China in it," Blair said. What Washington agrees to, however, "is going to be partly geared to the level of commitment that comes back from China and India and others. And vice versa. If the Chinese think the West is really serious about this, they'll want to do more," he told reporters after speaking to a conference of several hundred participants.
Blair said the agreement must map out a path for reducing emissions by 2020, a goal the Obama administration is resisting at UN climate negotiations.
Blair said Obama has made an ambitious commitment to return to the 1990 emissions level in 10 years. "That's quite a major change in their economy," he said. US emissions now are 16 percent above what they were two decades ago.
He said the negotiators will have to find a way to marry that US commitment with the more ambitious target set by the European Union to cut emissions 30 percent below 1990 as part of a global agreement.
The negotiations were formally launched in December 2007. Delegates reconvene in Bonn, Germany, in June to begin discussing the text of the Copenhagen agreement.
But little progress has been made on the core issues of setting targets for 2020, raising the $100 billion experts say will be needed every year to help poor countries cope with climate change, and figuring out who will control and distribute those funds.