Appearing before the House of Commons Liaison Committee on 3 February, Mr Blair acknowledged that climate change "is of fundamental importance to the long-term security and stability of the world."
Pressed by Peter Ainsworth, the new chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, to square this concern with the massive expansion in airport capacity set out in December's aviation White Paper (ENDS Report 347, pp 42-43 ), Mr Blair conceded that the two were "potentially" in conflict.
That was why, he said, the Government was planning an initiative during the UK's chairmanship of the G8 next year "that helps us investigate the full extent of the scientific and technological possibilities of reducing the damage that aviation fuel does." But Mr Blair insisted: "It is just not feasible to say that we are going to cut the number of journeys that people make."
When reminded by Mr Ainsworth that the extra runways announced in the White Paper will allow passenger numbers to more than double by 2030, he was adamant that the capacity was needed "unless we are going significantly to reduce the number of journeys that are predicted for the future..., and I do not see how we do that."
Technological solutions and "a whole lot of other methods" would have to be used instead to cut greenhouse gas emissions, from cars as well as aircraft.
The Government had concluded, Mr Blair said, that it would be "irresponsible" not to accept, "given the dramatic increase in the number of people using flights, that we were going to need extra capacity and that we were not, at least in the short term, going to be able to obviate the need for that."