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Winds of change: Tony Blair calls for new climate change agreement

Guardian Environment 22nd January 2009

Tony Blair has urged Gordon Brown and other leaders not to allow the financial crisis to get in the way of the fight against climate change. Speaking at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, the former prime minister called for a new global agreement setting tough interim targets up to 2020 to "transform" countries into low-carbon economies. He said: "It is right now, at the instant when our thoughts are centred on the economic challenge, that we must not set to one side the challenge of global warming, but instead resolve to meet it and put the world on the path to a sustainable future."

Blair outlined steps needed through a "global compact". "It needs not just a 2050 target but an interim target to get there, for example a target for 2020 that shows seriousness of intent and gives business a clear, unequivocal signal to invest in a low-carbon future."

The world's biggest wind turbine maker, Vestas, underlined the shift in priorities by announcing yesterday that the downturn had left it with excess manufacturing capacity of 15% as demand falls short of projections. Despite political impetus, the financial crisis had cut demand, said Ditlev Engel, the Danish company's chief executive.

"Six months ago everyone said we were not doing enough to meet demand growing at an expected 40% this year," he said. "Now people are saying 'Why have you put in place plans for a 40% increase in capacity when growth levels are only going to be 25%?'."

The firm is investing €2.5bn (£2.3bn) over four years to raise its capacity so it will be able to supply 10,000MW of equipment by 2010, compared with half this amount in 2005.

Goldman Sachs warned this week that wind and solar firms faced a rough ride. "The most important theme in 2009 within the alternative energy space will be a move from severe under-supply to one of at least a more balanced market and potentially serious oversupply."

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