Speeches

Tony Blair remarks at the launch of The Climate Group’s Clean Revolution campaign

REMARKS FROM TONY BLAIR, CHAIR, INTERNATIONAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL, THE CLIMATE GROUP

-CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY-

Thank you, it’s wonderful to be here with you this morning, to be with such a distinguished panel.

To thank the Climate Group for the remarkable work they do worldwide.

And to say to you frankly that it’s a relief after the weeks I’ve spent deep in the entrails of the Middle East Peace Process to talk about something that’s relatively easy to solve.

So it’s a special pleasure to be with you here this morning, it’s like a sabbatical.

I just want to make three points

The first is that the urgency of action have not abated, I think it has increased. That is for reasons of climate, of course, about which there is still a debate in certain quarters, but as Mike Bloomberg said earlier, the fact is even just on a precautionary basis it is sensible to act at the present time, since even those who are opposed to the climate science must at least acknowledge that there’s a possibility that the science that is advocated by many is correct and, indeed, we are changing the climate of our world by human action.

So there are reasons of climate to act, but there are also reasons to do with energy security and there are reasons also to do with the huge rise in population that we will have over the coming decades. So the urgency has not abated at all and sometimes when people say to me, ‘Well, look, with all this financial crisis and so on, is there room to deal with this issue?’ and I always say to people look, one of the things I found most frustrating when I was prime minister of the UK is that the problems never came sequentially. It would be great if they did. First of all, you’d have the financial crisis and then foreign policy is very calm and then after you’ve dealt with the financial crisis you can deal with foreign policy. It doesn’t work like that. They come as they come. And the fact is whatever the financial challenges in the world today, the climate challenge is real, the energy challenge is real and it has to be dealt with.

The second point is this: that right at the moment I think what is quite interesting is that although this UN process is very difficult after Copenhagen, even Cancun and leading up to South Africa, nonetheless there is an immense amount of effort and activity going on, not least in the C40 and not least at some national government level. And so one of the things that I think is rather inspiring but also gives me cause for optimism is that there is a real sense in which people out there are not waiting for some great global agreement. In other words, they want one and I think it’s important we have one, but they’re not waiting for one, they’re getting on and doing it.

And that really leads me to the third point, which I think is really important, which is this is going to be a cooperative effort, which will involve action at an international level, we hope, action at a national and sub-national level, but also action by business, by industry, and as a partner, as part of the solution and not identified as the problem. And this is incredibly important, in my view. We need to mobilise the business community not merely in the sense of individual businesses taking action, trying to behave more responsible vis-à-vis the environment. But also, business and industry working within a framework set at international, national and sub-national level, which is incentivising the development of the science and technology, which is in the end the only way that this is going to be resolved.

Because one thing that I’ve learned very clearly in these past years and this, I think, particularly involves the development of China and India. I think, for example, the Chinese government really do take this issue seriously today. But whatever is going to happen over these coming years the process of industrialisation is going to continue and those people, hundreds of millions of them, living in poverty in India and China and elsewhere are going to want to increase their standard of living. So we can’t afford, in a way, to be locked in this debate, as has quite rightly been said earlier, between sustainability on the one hand and growth on the other. We have to go for a concept of sustainable growth and the way of achieving that is through a combination of partnership between public, private, voluntary and business sector and incentivising and then developing the science and technology of the future. And this is really what the Clean Revolution is about.

The purpose of it is to form the right network of contacts and ideas and innovation so that we take what is going on in the world – in any part of the world – that helps us meet our goal and we spread the message, deepen it, get others to copy the best practice in the world and generate those ideas and innovations of the future. So this is what it’s about: it’s about a call for action now, it’s about a call for action at every level, not just at international level, and it’s about a partnership between public, private, voluntary and business sectors. So I’m delighted to put my full support behind the Climate Group in this endeavour.

And, finally, I’d just like to say that I think it’s particularly appropriate that we’re here in the Academy of Science. Ellis was talking earlier about all the very distinguished people associated with here, including Einstein and it reminds me of the story of when Einstein first came to America. And, actually, he was taken to America by boat and on the boat was Chaim Weizmann who then went on to become president of Israel. They spent, obviously, many days on the boat together coming over here and when they docked just a short distance from here, because Einstein had just published his theory of relativity and they were surrounded by journalists. And one of the journalists said to Weizmann, ‘Weizmann, you’ve now spent many days with Einstein. Did you discuss his theory of relativity?’ And Weizmann said, ‘Yes, we did, actually. I spent every day with Einstein and every day we discussed in depth the theory of relativity and at the end of our discussions I concluded that he understands it very well.’

I feel the same when I look at the science and innovations and technologies of climate change, but one thing I’m sure of is that however little I understand it I do understand its necessity, its urgency and the need for us to act now.

Thank you.

-ENDS-