The Heat Is Online

Blair Urges U.S. To Step Up To Climate Protection

Blair unveils his green offensive with demand US ratifies Kyoto

The Independent (U.K.), Sept. 14, 2004

Tony Blair will today urge the United States to commit itself to tougher action to combat global warming and promise that a list of green policies will be included in Labour's general election manifesto.

The Prime Minister is to raise the profile of green issues as part of a drive to woo back people disaffected by the Iraq war. Labour's private polling shows that "progressive voters", many of whom were alienated by Mr Blair's stance on Iraq, regard the environment as a top priority.

Speaking to a conference staged by the Prince of Wales's Business and the Environment Programme, Mr Blair will stop short of a full-frontal attack on President George Bush, but will make clear that when Britain takes over the presidency of the G8 group of leading industrialised nations in January, it will expect America to accept its responsibilities on global warming.

Mr Blair, who believes the Kyoto treaty does not go far enough, will reiterate his call for the United States to sign it. He will identify climate change as one of the the greatest challenges facing the planet, saying that one country acting alone cannot solve the problem. He believes that nations who promise to act must be assured that they will not be undermined by "free riders" who refuse to play their part.

He will also urge businesses to join the battle, arguing that companies must not drag their feet about implementing higher environmental standards. He will say that there is no conflict between protecting the environment and a strong economy, and that "green" scientific advances can help to boost growth. He will insist that economic development, social justice and environmental modernisation must go hand in hand.

The Prime Minister will seek to recapture the initiative on green policy by pledging action both abroad and at home, and insisting that the Government's record on the environment is better than it is often given credit for. He wants environmental protection to form a plank of Labour's manifesto for the election expected next May, which is likely to include a firm pledge to boost renewable energy and build more wind farms. He will call for a new partnership between central and local government and other public bodies to promote sustainability.

The pressure on the United States to act will be stepped up this week by Stephen Byers, a former cabinet minister who is a close ally of Mr Blair and co-chairs an international task force on climate change. He is in Washington for three days of talks with the Bush administration, John Kerry's Democratic campaign team, Congressmen, business interests and environmental groups.

Mr. Byers said yesterday: "The reality is that unless we can get the United States engaged - responsible as it is for around a quarter of the world's carbon dioxide emissions - then any hopes of successfully tackling global warming will be doomed to failure.

"I know that there is a considerable body of opinion in America that believes the introduction of measures to tackle global warming will adversely affect the American way of life. But for millions of Americans, climate change is already having a damaging and disrupting effect on their lives.

Time is running out if we are to win this battle against climate change, and we need America to join the international effort."

Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said: "Tony Blair has an historic opportunity to lead the world in the crucial battle against climate change. We are delighted that he will be putting it at the top of the European Union and G8 political agenda.

"The Prime Minister must awaken the world to the scale of the problem and say that the time has come for tough decisions and tough action. But the Prime Minister's warning will carry greater weight if it is backed by firm action to tackle the problem at home."