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Green lobby turns on 'long-haul Blair'.

Byline: By Andrew Woodcock

Tony Blair was attacked by one of his own advisers yesterday for a "complete failure to lead" on climate change after he said he would not give up long-haul holiday flights to help to save the environment.

Despite his important role in raising the profile of global warming on the international stage, Mr Blair's leadership in the UK has been "patchy and muddleheaded" on the issue, said Jonathon Porritt, chairman of the Government's Sustainable Development Commission. But Mr Blair was defended by Environment Secretary David Miliband, who insisted that for the Prime Minister to deny himself foreign holidays would be no more than "gesture politics".

Mr Blair was subject to a hail of criticism from environmentalists yesterday after suggesting that the key to cutting greenhouse gas emissions from aviation was scientific innovation, not persuading people to fly less.

Mr Blair said: "I personally think these things are a bit impractical, actually to expect people to do that. "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."

Fresh from a winter break in Miami, the PM rejected the idea that he should set a personal example by taking breaks closer to home, and cautioned against setting people "unrealistic targets" or ending cheap air travel. "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," he said.

"It's like telling people you shouldn't drive anywhere."

Mr Porritt said the PM was "completely wrong" to suggest that scientists can be relied on to find a painless solution to global warming and to think that voters are unwilling to change their own behaviour if they are given a clear lead.

"I am not saying the Prime Minister should never take another foreign holiday, but I am saying that he should be looking very carefully at the impacts of those holidays," Mr Porritt said.

"He should seek to reduce them as much as he possibly can, and he should be absolutely clear that when he does feel the need to take a foreign holiday, he is indeed offsetting the emissions that will be used through that holiday, and he should be encouraging other people to do the same and to take their holidays in the UK."

Mr Blair's "very disappointing" comments represented "a complete failure to lead people in the way that they now expect to be led by a Government that professes to be very concerned about these things", said Mr Porritt.

Greenpeace said Mr Blair was taking the "delusional" position of "crossing his fingers and hoping someone will invent aeroplanes that don't cause climate change".

Campaigner Emily Armistead said: "He's finally forfeited any claim to be a world leader on climate change."

And Friends of the Earth head of campaigns Mike Childs said it was "disappointing" that Mr Blair had refused to set an example.

John Gummer, Tory former Environment Secretary - and co-chairman of David Cameron's Quality of Life Policy Group - said Mr Blair's defence of his "shaming" long-haul trips was "a very great dereliction of duty". "He has behaved absolutely appallingly in the sense that he has excused his personal failure by saying how difficult it is politically and how it doesn't really matter as we are only two per cent of the world's emissions," Mr Gummer said.

CAPTION(S):

Jonathon Porritt' David Miliband' John Gummer
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 10, 2007
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