Blair ‘won’t stop long-haul flights’

Tony Blair has said he will not give up exotic holidays and the long-haul flights that get him there, arguing that climate change is better tackled by investing in new technology.

The prime minister, who has recently returned from a family trip to Florida, said it was “a bit impractical” to expect people to sacrifice their holidays in the name of the environment – and made clear that he would not be setting an example in this area.

“You know, I’m still waiting for the first politician who’s actually running for office who’s going to come out and say it – and they’re not. It’s like telling people you shouldn’t drive anywhere,” he said.

Instead, he argued that science, particularly moves to make air travel more energy efficient, was the best way to help cut carbon emissions produced by aviation.

“I think that what we need to do is to look at how you make air travel more energy efficient, how you develop the new fuels that will allow us to burn less energy and emit less,” he said.

Mr Blair’s comments, in an interview with Sky News to be broadcast today, appear to contradict remarks made by environment minister Ian Pearson last week, who said low-cost airlines were threatening the government’s targets on cutting carbon emissions.

They were also swiftly condemned by environmental groups. Greenpeace campaigner Emily Armistead said: “Tony Blair is crossing his fingers and hoping someone will invent aeroplanes that don’t cause climate change.

“But that’s like holding out for cigarettes that don’t cause cancer.”

Friends of the Earth head of campaigns Mike Childs said the prime minister’s refusal to set an example was “disappointing”, adding: “Aviation is the fastest growing source of carbon dioxide in the UK.

“But rather than taking steps to curb the rise in air travel, the government is encouraging it by giving the aviation industry multi-billion pound tax breaks and allowing UK airports to expand.”

Mr Blair has previously argued that international cooperation is the only way to cut climate change, and he repeated this argument in today’s interview.

“Britain is two per cent of the world’s emissions. We shut down all of Britain’s emissions tomorrow – the growth in China will make up the difference within two years. So we’ve got to be realistic about how much obligation we’ve got to put on ourselves,” he said.

“You’ve got to do this together and you’ve got to do it in a way that doesn’t end up actually putting people off the green agenda by saying you must not have a good time anymore and can’t consume.

“The truth is that all the evidence shows if you use the science and technology constructively, your economy can grow, people can have a good time but do so more responsibly.”