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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 November 2005, 12:05 GMT
Global warming
On Sunday 20 November 2005 Andrew Marr interviewed Stephen Tindale, Chief Executive, Greenpeace

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Andrew Marr and Stephen Tindale
Stephen Tindale, Chief Executive, Greenpeace

ANDREW MARR: Now we are at a crunch time in the struggle to get international agreement on tackling climate change.

Next week environment ministers from around the world gather in Montreal to begin negotiating a successor to the Kyoto Treaty which you remember set targets for cutting harmful emissions but was largely ignored by Washington.

Now environmentalists here are worried about the British government's position. A year ago Tony Blair seemed vehemently on their side.

Climate change rate if it continues at the current rate would prove, he said, a challenge so far-reaching in its impact and irreversible in its destructive power, that it alters radically human existence.

Recently, however, the tone has changed. Earlier this month he said something that set alarm bells ringing across the environmental movement. "Emissions targets", he said, "made people very nervous and very worried. I think we need to find a better, more sensitive set of mechanisms to deal with this problem". That's what he told a conference in London.

Last week green campaigners responded by dumping on Downing Street - several tons of coal that is - to highlight the continuing use of fossil fuels. Well one of the men behind that protest is with me now, Stephen Tindale.

Once an environmental advisor to Labour, now Director of Greenpeace. Stephen, you focussed the protest there on use of coal. Tony Blair has said very recently that it's just unrealistic to expect all those growing economies not to need fossil fuels, not to depend on coal.

You simply can't turn round to China, to India and other countries and say "no more coal"?

STEPHEN TINDALE: Well that's probably true but there are different ways of burning coal and what our focus in the UK is, is in saying that the way in which we're burning coal in these old power stations, 20, 30 years old, is incredibly inefficient. Two-thirds of the energy that's embodied in the coal is wasted up the chimney in the form of waste heat. And Tony Blair is allowing this to continue, indeed he's encouraging it to continue. So it's not coal versus non-coal, it's efficiency versus non-efficiency.

ANDREW MARR: I quoted that sentence, couple of sentences, in the speech you gave to environment ministers a couple of weeks ago, which really have changed the atmosphere. Can you explain why, what appears to many people a common sense thing that the Prime Minister said, which is that hard targets frighten and alarm people and that we need to look for more sensitive ways of dealing with this problem. Why has that caused such a problem for people like yourselves?

STEPHEN TINDALE: Because basically if you don't have targets then you have no handle over where you're trying to get to. And there's nothing to drive the new technologies forward. And what Blair has been guilty of is in saying we want technology and we don't want targets. In fact he's now reversed his position and said we need both which is exactly what we've been telling him.

If you have the targets then industry will respond by saying OK we know what targets we've got to meet, we'll invest, we'll do the research and development, we'll come up with new ideas and we'll drive down emissions. If you don't have targets things just operating in a vacuum. Then if you get any progress it'll be very slow.

ANDREW MARR: So the Montreal meeting which starts at the end of next week - crunch moment because that's the moment that Kyoto has renegotiated for the future. If no targets are included in that final deal what's the consequence?

STEPHEN TINDALE: If no targets are included then the global climate will spiral out of control and we'll begin to see yet more of the extreme weather conditions that we've been seeing - we'll see more people dying, the World Health Organisation says 150,000 are dying already every year as a result of climate change. So it's absolutely essential that for the rich countries, for the countries that have signed and ratified the Kyoto, that's including all of the rich countries apart from America and Australia, they've already got targets and those targets must be rolled forward.

If we can then bring countries like India and China into the system in the form of voluntary targets that would be a step forward. But it's absolutely essential that those countries that have got targets already don't step back from that and continue with their mandatory targets.

ANDREW MARR: Do you think that Tony Blair's changed his mind?

STEPHEN TINDALE: I think Tony Blair has realised that he's not going to shift George Bush on this and he's therefore trying to move the rest of the world to George Bush's position which is a disaster.

ANDREW MARR: Stephen Tindale thank you very much.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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