Blair touts 10 million jobs from climate action

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he hopes to break the "deadlock" in global climate talks with evidence that 10 million jobs could be created by 2020, if developing nations agree to big cuts in greenhouse gases.

Blair, heading up a climate initiative, released a report that also shows a global climate agreement could increase the world's GDP by 0.8 percent by 2020, as compared with the projected gross domestic product with no climate action.

He was visiting New York ahead of a U.N. climate summit drawing 100 world leaders on Tuesday and a flurry of supporting events in New York City this week.

The events are intended to build support for crafting a new climate deal in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, requiring mandatory cuts in atmospheric warming gases, that expires at the end of 2012.

Blair's report, one of a series he is promoting, is based on computer modelling by Cambridge University economists. He called the upcoming Copenhagen negotiations "the moment when we move from a campaign to a policy program" that clears the hurdles of exactly how the world's main economies will cut emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other industrial warming gases.

"I think it is essential that we get an agreement at Copenhagen," Blair said Sunday. "I think it is possible, and the purpose of the report is to show that in economic terms, certainly in the medium and long-term, it's hugely to our economic benefit to get a global agreement."

In the shorter term, not so much. Blair acknowledged the costs of investment in new forms of energy that emit fewer warming gases — wind, solar panels, nuclear power, electric vehicles, so-called "smart grid" plans using more renewable forms of energy — are daunting, particularly on the heels of a global financial crisis.

"It's politically very tough for people, because short-term, obviously, people have got to take measures that are difficult," he said. "In the medium and long-term, there are real benefits from doing this."

Much could depend on the U.S. Senate, where the prospects of legislation to follow up on a House plan and deal with U.S. greenhouse gases that account for about a fifth of the world's emissions is considered a steep uphill fight. China, the other main emitter, accounts for another fifth, and is expected to announce major climate plans this week.

The Obama administration has announced a target of returning to 1990 levels of greenhouse emissions by 2020, while China is seeking to use 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Blair said climate change was one key area where his ideas diverged from those of former U.S. President George W. Bush, whose administration claimed for years that the Kyoto accord would have cost the U.S. economy 5 million jobs if Bush had not rejected it.

"I can't say I ever investigated that particular claim in detail," said Blair, who was Bush's closest ally on the Iraq war — a stance that ultimately contributed to Blair's decline in popularity at home and his stepping down as both Labor Party leader and prime minister.

"But all I can tell you from our perspective in the U.K. — and if you look at the rest of Europe — we have not been losing jobs as a result of taking action on climate change. If anything, we've been gaining jobs."

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