Picture by Rory Arnold / No 10 Downing Street

Tony Blair warns public should not be asked to do ‘huge amount’ to reach net zero

Sir Tony Blair has said the public should not be asked to do a “huge amount” to tackle rising global temperatures, insisting that Britain’s net zero efforts will not solve climate change alone.

The former Labour prime minister also insisted that climate change is the “single biggest global challenge” and that “Britain should play its part” in tackling it.

But in his comments, coming in an interview with The New Statesman, he added that what the UK can achieve on climate would be dwarfed by the impact of actions of larger emitters.

Sir Tony’s intervention comes as both the Labour and Conservative parties consider how best to pursue net zero in the wake of the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election last week. 

Labour came a shock second in the Uxbridge by-election last week, losing out to the Conservative Party candidate Steve Tuckwell by 495 votes. 

Mr Tuckwell ran a campaign focussed on the planned expansion of the ULEZ scheme and, in his victory speech, told activists that ULEZ “lost Labour this election”. 

In his interview with the New Statesman on July 18, two days before the Uxbridge by-election, Sir Tony said: “Don’t ask us to do a huge amount when frankly whatever we do in Britain is not really going to impact climate change.

“The number one issue today – and this is where Britain could play a part – is how do you finance the energy transition?

“Because, basically, the developed world’s emissions are going down, but the developing world’s are going up. These countries have got to grow, so how do you finance the transition? Secondly, how do you accelerate the technology?”.

Repeating his commitment to Britain’s 2050 net zero emissions target, the former PM insisted that China’s sizeable emissions should not be a reason for stalling on climate change.

“Well, it’s the single biggest global challenge”, he said, “and Britain should play its part in that,” he said. “But its part frankly is going to be less to do with Britain’s emissions. I mean, one year’s rise in China’s emissions would outscore the whole of Britain’s emissions for a year.”

Amid the debate in recent days about how to pursue net zero policies in Britain, Rishi Sunak has said he wants to make the UK a net zero carbon emitter by 2050 in a “proportionate and pragmatic”.

Government figures have also confirmed that landlords will get more time to make their rental accommodation greener and indicated that they would show “flexibility” on new electric car requirements.

Last month, Sir Tony’s think tank, the Institute for Global Change, published a report spelling out how the UK can strengthen its net zero push with a “decade of electrification.” 

The paper, co-authored by Hermione Dace and Tone Langengen, said that if the UK continues on current trajectories it would not decarbonise the electricity grid until 2062.

It reads: “The country needs an economic and societal transformation not seen since the Industrial Revolution to maintain its position as a global leader on tackling climate change”. 

It adds: “The policies and institutions developed in Britain can become a blueprint for the rest of the world to follow and an anchor of U.K. economic growth and prosperity.”