I surprise myself by thinking well of Tony Blair’s effort to save the world’s climate. Over Iraq, I hold him to be a fool and a war criminal. Over many other issues, I’ve despised him. On his latest incarnation as a peacemaker in the Middle East – where he, more than anyone else, holds responsibility for adding 2 million refugees, millions of displaced, over 600,000 dead and horrendous child malnutrition – I am flabbergasted.
Similarly Blair-hating friends have scoffed at me about this latest move of his, to push climate action at the highest level. But I disagree, for various Realpolitik reasons: I think he is scared by the science; he has huge clout in the US; and he could work with China and India.
Firstly, Blair grasped the horror of the climate science a while back and took some serious measures, even in the constraints of government: he got Stern to put out a gilt-plated climate-change business case, and committed to ambitious 60%-reduction- by-2050 targets well ahead of most other governments. I believe he is scared and informed. He’s saying we have less than five years to stop a catastrophe… that is what the science says. But that also sounds like what the hairy eco-nutters have been saying for years, so it is bold for a major politician to concur.
Secondly, the US is the biggest problem; someone HAS to go there and kick their heads in on this issue. Blair, through his earlier sins in Kosovo and Iraq, has got a lot of Special Relationship brownie points to reclaim on Capitol Hill, where they all want to be him. The US public love his accent and rhetoric, and that is much more important; all the presidential candidates understand the urgency of changing policy on climate, they sort of agree with Al Gore, but the man in the street doesn’t, so Obama and McCain never mention it, and the US media never asks … I read that a survey last week showed US citizens put climate change as 26th on their list of priorities. Those people love Blair’s accent – so if he made an intervention there before the election, it could seriously raise the commitment , the mandate, for action by the next administration, of whichever flavour.
Thirdly, we ‘know’ that China and India are also crucial. As a cluey guy, Blair would probably be repelled by the facile and emasculating ‘stop China first’ arguments that have recently been such effective antidote to western action on climate. I believe China is ready to play, and is already doing much; they read the science too. As an over-polite, smiling Brit, Blair is well placed to understand and accommodate Asian concerns about saving face in any future negotiation. With his huge profile, he would also carry a lot of clout.
So there are three good reasons to think well of such an initiative from Blair. Also, frankly, I think that the climate situation is desperate; clearly, it is time to call “all hands to the pumps” and clearly this guy with the despicable past has, nonetheless, a lot of weight to throw around. So much as I want him on trial for Iraq and don’t want to see him shine up his image with such work, I reluctantly think he might help.
But he is a war criminal snake in the grass, so I I could be wrong. I don’t know if he wants to bypass the UN post-Kyoto framework – such details are vital.
And anyway, it would be a better use of his time than his current fools mission: he is now some sort of Envoy of Peace poncing, ignorantly and impotently, around the Middle East where most people hate him – a region he stupidly helped set on fire.
As a sinful, serious Christian looking to redeem his serious sins, or as a politician with a dirty legacy that needs improving, I can see why this would be a good move for him. I don’t wish him either of those outcomes, but he might just help on a vital job.