Tony Blair promotes countrywide solar power project in China
01 September 2009
Two years after demiting ofice, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is in China to launch a project to bring affordable solar lighting to villages across the country. He speaks to CNN's John Vause on issues including tackling climate change, resolving the conflict in the Middle East, and on whether his legacy has been overshadowed by the war in Iraq
It has been two years since former British Prime Minister Tony Blair left office. This week's Talk Asia follows him to China as he speaks to CNN's John Vause on issues including tackling climate change, resolving the conflict in the Middle East, and on whether his legacy has been overshadowed by the war in Iraq.
Blair is in China to launch a project to bring affordable solar lighting to villages across the country. Working alongside Chinese movie star Jet Li through a partnership of their respective foundations, the aim is to have solar panels installed to promote clean energy use in Guiyang's rural villages. He tells Vause how he has noticed a change in the Chinese government in tackling climate change. ''I think what brought change in policy in relation to China, is that they suddenly understood that economic progress and economic development, unless it put sustainability and appreciation of the environment at the heart of it, was never going to work.'' He adds: ''The thing about the Chinese is when they do it, they're going to do it.''
Appointed a Middle East peace envoy the day after leaving office, Blair also talks optimistically about a possible resolution to the conflict under the current Israeli government. ''Sometimes the person who, if you like, is supposedly more hard-line is the person that can deliver.'' He says, ''So I think provided Prime Minister Netanyahu is genuinely prepared, in circumstances where the Palestinian state is going to be securely run, properly governed, if he's prepared to commit to a Palestinian state then we can make peace. This is not an issue where it's impossible to see a solution.''
He also refutes comments that he took the envoy role as atonement for the war in Iraq: ''I believe it's important. I believe the Middle East is better off without a dictator like Saddam Hussein there, but I also believe in Middle East peace, and I always have done.'' He adds: ''And the truth is, whether we like it or not in the West, and sometimes we don't, the existence of this Israel-Palestine conflict is a major source of friction between the West and the Muslim world, between the West and the Arab world.''
Blair further reveals how his work in the Holy Land takes on extra significance for him as a Roman Catholic: ''If you're someone from the Abraham faiths, then to be in the Holy Land, to be in and around the places that you read about and grew up with in the Bible is very inspiring.''
Some critics linked his personal faith with the decision to go to war in Iraq, but he tells Vause the two were unrelated: ''Are my politics and my values linked? Yes, of course they are. But I took those decisions for reasons that were not to do with religion, but to do with the belief that in each case it was right to protect people against the prospect or actuality of dictatorship.''