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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 July, 2005, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Wakeham sees upside from warming
Lord Wakeham
The ex-minister chairs the Lords economic affairs committee
Siberia will become a "rather nice place to live" and Europe will benefit "on balance" from global warming, says ex-Enron director Lord Wakeham.

The ex-Tory minister chairs the Lords economic affairs committee whose latest report argues targets to cut carbon emissions will make little difference.

They argue instead for the development of carbon-free technology.

Lord Wakeham said the committee was trying to help G8 leaders as they meet to discuss climate change and Africa.

He told BBC News that "vast areas of the world" were likely to benefit from global warming.

Unworkable targets?

"For example Siberia will actually become rather a nice place to live - I think on balance Europe is probably going to benefit," he said.

"Africa and south east Asia have got serious problems and so we think a more detailed analysis would highlight some of these problems."

Lord Wakeham suggested that a system of targets or penalties to reduce carbon emission was not going to work.

He acknowledged the majority of people were in favour of the "generally accepted view" on climate change.

But he added: "There is a significant minority which has considerable doubts."

Key goal

Asked if he was concerned that as an ex-energy minister and ex-director of collapsed energy firm Enron, his comments would sound like he was lobbying for the energy industry, Lord Wakeham said there were two former chancellors and two current economic professors on the Lords' committee.

"We are not saying there isn't a problem. We are saying there are better ways of tackling it."

Climate change is a central plank of Tony Blair's goals for the UK presidency of the G8 but there are significant differences with the US government on the issue.

President George Bush has made clear he will not sign up to Kyoto-style limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

US co-operation?

"I would call it the post-Kyoto era, where we can work together to share technologies to control greenhouse gases as best as possible," he said.

Lord Wakeham told the Times there was an excessive preoccupation with setting emissions targets.

"Technological development is much more likely to have an effect. It's an area that is much more likely to get the US to co-operate."

In their report peers argue that the "more of the same approach" relying exclusively on targets for emissions reductions may not tackle global warming.

Enron's collapse

They also urge a "thorough review" of the climate change levy and a move to replace it with a carbon tax.

"The important thing is to wean the international negotiators away from excessive reliance on the targets and penalties approach embodied in Kyoto," the Economic Affairs Committee report says.

The peers, including ex-Tory chancellors Lord Lamont and Lord Lawson and ex-Labour minister Lord Macdonald, also argue that they are not convinced the public is sufficiently aware of the economics of climate change and that "action to tackle it will also have to be serious and potentially life-changing".

Enron collapsed in 2001 after revealing that it inflated its profits and filed false accounts to hide debts.


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