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The BBC's John Pienaar
"He wanted to establish his green credentials"
 real 56k

The BBC's Mark Mardell
"These protestors and those like them think the car is the real culprit"
 real 56k

The BBC's Roger Harrabin
"It (the Rio summit) really did put environment on the map"
 real 28k

Manmohan Malhoutra, the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation
"In the developing countries we are tending to follow your pattern in a slightly thoughtless manner"
 real 28k

Environment minister Michael Meacher
"Roads is the most sensitive area"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 14:26 GMT
Blair pitches for green vote
Anti-road demonstration
Tony Blair was greeted by anti-road demonstrators
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has sought to boost Labour's green credentials by pledging 100m towards the development of renewable energy sources such as wind, wave and solar power.

The prime minister has already proved he is profoundly uninterested in the environment

Damien Green
In a keynote speech, the prime minister warned that the success of alternative power production depended on its commercial viability.

"We can only succeed if we make tackling climate change a commercial opportunity," he said, adding that countries that invested in renewable technologies would "reap a long-term reward".

The speech, to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) hosted conference in central London, was greeted by opposition parties as a transparent bid to woo the green vote ahead of an expected May general election.

Mr Blair's speech was only the second time in the last four years that he has addressed the renewable energy issue. Friends of the Earth welcomed the investment boost, although the organisation said that it was not enough.

Guarded welcome

Mr Blair used his speech to address the issue of the current crisis in European agriculture.

The "silver lining" of the current situation, he argued, was that EU member states were now faced with the opportunity to change the direction of the common agricultural policy.

The old orthodoxies were being questioned in the wake of the BSE (mad cow disease) crisis, he said.

I think the prime minister and the government generally have failed miserably where the environment is concerned

Charles Kennedy
"Other member states, Germany most recently, are calling for greater emphasis on environmental good practice, quality food and high standards of care for farm animals," he said.

Mr Blair also highlighted his concern over the sometimes damaging effects of economic growth, saying sustainable development would be the "key issue" of the century ahead.

"There will always be dilemmas in the politics of the environment; there is no point in any practising politician saying anything else is the case," he said.

Mr Blair acknowledged that although there would, in the long term, be benefits from pursuing sustainable economic growth, in the "short term, there is often pain involved and hard and difficult decisions".

But he insisted that there was now "an intense sense of urgency about this debate".

'Pre-election stunt'

Both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives were scathing about the government's record on the environment and the timing of the speech.

The Tories accused the prime minister of launching a "a pre-election stunt to win votes".

Wind generators
Wind power is set to benefit from a share of 100m
The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, said Labour had "failed miserably" on the environment.

Mr Blair was greeted by people demonstrating against his government's road policies as he arrived to make his speech at Chatham House. Protesters included veterans of the Twyford Down and Newbury protests.

Ahead of the event, Tory environment spokesman Damien Green described Mr Blair's speech as "yet another pre-election stunt".

"The prime minister has already proved he is profoundly uninterested in the environment and is fooling no-one with this sudden burst of fake concern."

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy suggested Labour had no "gut instinct" on green issues.

"I think the prime minister and the government generally have failed miserably where the environment is concerned," he said.

Blair 'starkers'

The Green Party criticised Mr Blair's speech and suggested that Labour had no proper environment policies.

A spokesman said: "It's another case of the emperor's green clothes. On environment policy, Tony Blair is virtually starkers. But he insists on showing off what he hasn't really got."

But Environment Minister Michael Meacher said the prime minister was personally committed to the issue.

Speaking to BBC News, he said: "For everyone and for him [Mr Blair], the environment is rising on the political agenda.

"Things have happened that were not there three years ago. The threat of climate change certainly wasn't there to the same degree three years ago. He is responding to that."

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06 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Blair wins greens' praise
23 Oct 00 | Sci/Tech
Labour: A green government?
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