The Montreal Climate Talks will be the crucial test of Tony Blair's commitment to tackling climate change, Friends of the Earth said today, as speculation grows around the UK Government's line. Representatives from 190 countries will attend the UN Climate Conference in Montreal from 28 November 2005 for crucial talks on the future development of the Kyoto Protocol.

The UK Government, which currently holds both the presidency of the EU and of the G8, will play a key role at the talks, leading the EU delegation. Tony Blair has said action on climate change is a priority, but with little achieved at the G8 Summit in Gleneagles in July, the pressure is now on for real progress to be made in Montreal.

The Kyoto Protocol, which came into force in February this year, is the only international treaty to tackle climate change, setting binding targets for industrialised countries to cut carbon emissions by 2012. The Montreal talks will determine the future development of the treaty, potentially setting the agenda for the development of targets post 2012.

Former Environment Minister Michael Meacher has urged the UK to take a lead at the talks, saying: "The need for urgent action to tackle climate change has never been clearer. We are running out of time for talking and must act. Tony Blair has rightly pushed world leaders on this issue. He must now follow through by ensuring that real progress is made. An agreement to negotiate on firm targets with a clear timetable in Montreal could prove the greatest measure of how successful Blair's year for climate has been. "

But recent comments from the UK Prime Minister have raised concerns about his commitment to a second phase of Kyoto. Just yesterday, speaking in the House of Commons, Tony Blair said: “I am also however determined to make sure that any future arrangements - because the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 - have got to involve the United States, India and China.”

The United States has refused to sign the Kyoto Treaty, and as such will be observers at the Montreal talks. India and China will be part of the discussions but Friends of the Earth believes any commitments from some developing countries must be in line with meeting their development goals, encouraging a low carbon development.

Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Tony Juniper said: “Tony Blair needs to be very careful about how he presents UK policy on climate change. Kyoto does not expire in 2012, although there is a real risk he will kill it if he talks about it in this way. The Montreal talks are a crucial opportunity to move forward international action to tackle climate change.

"Tony Blair can play an important role by standing firm on the need for firm targets and a clear timetable for talks. It is of course important to find ways of bringing rapidly developing countries such as China and India on board, but the world cannot wait for the United States to join in.” Friends of the Earth’s briefing on the UK Government and the Montreal Climate Talks is available at:


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