Tony Blair takes on climate change

LONDON (Reuters) - Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has already taken on an international role as a Middle East envoy, is now tackling climate change with a plan for the world to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Prime Minister Tony Blair (R) is greeted by Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda before their meeting at the latter's official residence in Tokyo March 14, 2008. REUTERS/Dai Kurokawa/Pool

Blair travelled to Tokyo on Friday to unveil a climate change initiative and said on his Web site he will go to China and India in the next week to discuss his proposals with the world’s two largest developing economies.

“There is a consensus now right across the world that we need a new global deal and at the heart of it there has got to be a substantial cut in emissions. The difficult thing is: what type of deal? That’s the work that I’m working on,” he said in a video clip on the website,

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Blair said he will propose halving emissions by the middle of the century.

“This is extremely urgent. A 50 percent cut by 2050 has to be a central component of this,” Blair said. “We have to try this year to get that agreed. We need a true and proper global deal and that needs to include America and China.”

Blair’s spokesman Matthew Doyle said the United States and European Union backed Blair’s efforts, although they had not yet signed up to his proposed 50 percent cut.

Blair had discussed the project with U.S. President George W. Bush, as well as Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Doyle added.

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Blair told the Guardian the world needed an agreement on curbing greenhouse gases within two years.

“The fact of the matter is if we do not take substantial action over the next two years, then by 2020 we will be thinking about adaptation rather than prevention,” he said, adding that progress would not be made by telling people not to consume.

“The Chinese and Indian governments are determined to grow their economies. They have hundreds of millions of very poor people -- they are going to industrialise, they are going to raise their living standards, and quite right too,” he said.

Since leaving office last year after 10 years as prime minister, Blair has taken on the role of envoy for the Quartet of the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia promoting economic development for Palestinians.

He has also drawn criticism for accepting lucrative business, publishing and public speaking deals.

Among his business deals, he was hired in January by insurer Zurich Financial Services to help it develop insurance products to mitigate the effects of global warming.

Editing by Dave Graham