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Blair Says Climate Deal Within Reach

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) -- Former British prime minister Tony Blair says a global deal to combat climate change was within reach and countries should worry less about locking in pollution-reduction details through 2050 and more on embracing a "framework" for a low-carbon future.

"We have within our grasp now the main elements that are necessary for a deal. It won't be everything that everybody wants," Blair said in an interview on December 13 on the sidelines of an international climate change meeting, "but it will be a very significant step forward for the world."

Blair added, "The important thing now is to get the thing moving; get it on the way" and make necessary adjustments later.

Besides facing a "race against time" for the planet's environment, Blair said that a failure to produce a deal in Copenhagen will create turmoil for the business community.

"You will find huge uncertainty among all those players that we need to have certainty about the investments they're going to make" in cleaner, alternative energy, he said.

For example, Blair said that even if the world cannot agree to a 25-40 percent cut in carbon emissions, a less ambitious but significant reduction will "get people adjusting their investment decisions; you'll get the process underway."

The Copenhagen meetings bringing together 192 nations will try to culminate in a deal setting ambitious new targets for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases scientists fear could bring destructive flooding, drought and disease in coming decades.

"I would fret less about the precise (emissions) percentages right this moment and focus absolutely on a realistic framework for a low carbon future," Blair said.

The first week of these meetings saw China and small island nations criticize the United States and other major developed countries for offering carbon emission reduction goals they said were inadequate.

"It is absolutely inevitable that you get quite a lot of noise and criticism around a negotiation like this. I think we've just got to return to the essentials of an agreement," Blair said.

Blair, who served as British prime minister for a decade until 2007 and more recently has come under scrutiny for his role in the Iraq war, has founded The Climate Group, which on Sunday released a paper titled "Breaking the Climate Deadlock."

The report largely tracks what negotiators have been focusing on: setting targets for reducing the burning of dirty coal and oil, setting future checkpoints on progress and ensuring rich countries provide financial aid to poor ones to help them deal with the problem.

"Make it a radical change setting the world on a low carbon path, but make it realistic at the same time," Blair advised. "Don't ask governments to do things they really cannot or will not do."