Blair: US set for new climate change treaty

Key points

• Prime Minister in talks to sign Bush up to a global warming action plan at G8

• PM's grand plan for Gleneagles Declaration branded 'window dressing'

• White House confirms that Bush is willing to work with Blair's new deal

Key quote

"We still have a situation whereby all the major developed countries have agreed to the Kyoto Treaty except for the US. America ... must be faced down by Blair so it plays a full part" - Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland

Story in full TONY Blair is negotiating a "Gleneagles Declaration" on climate change that would sign the United States up to a new world plan of action on global warming.

The statement would accept that the US will never sign the Kyoto Treaty, which commits signatories to reducing greenhouse gases. Instead, it would recognise US efforts to fight global warming in its own way, with extensive investment in new fuel technology.

Environmentalists last night dismissed the move as mere "window dressing", while opposition politicians warned the Prime Minister not to use the G8 summit at Gleneagles to "paper over the cracks" on climate change.

After his dinner with George Bush, the US president, on Tuesday, Mr Blair said it was no longer productive to chastise Washington for saying no to the Kyoto Treaty.

But the Prime Minister is confident his ambitions set out for Gleneagles can still be realised by a new deal which British diplomats are in the final stages of negotiating.

This would broker a truce on the environment by acknowledging that Europe and the US are fighting climate change in their own ways. While Europe prefers to tax greenhouse gasses and trade economic growth for environmental targets, the US would spend a far greater share of its national wealth on new technologies.

In the Commons yesterday, Mr Blair said the Americans "come at this issue as much from the point of view of energy security and supply, as much as climate change. But there is an action plan that I believe we can agree at the G8".

He said he was working on "some form of continuing process that locks in not just the US but those emerging countries, China and India in particular, without whom it is very difficult to see how we are going to make progress".

Mr Blair's official spokesman said the Kyoto Treaty had its "limitations" - specifically because it placed no constraints on emerging global powers.

"The important thing is that we draw the emerging nations such as India and China into the debate on the issue," he said. "Kyoto did not do that, so what we need is a new consensus based on new technology that can address the problem."

The White House confirmed that Mr Bush was willing to work with Mr Blair's new deal - on the understanding that his administration's rejection of Kyoto would not change.

"The president is acting in a number of ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to work in partnership with others around the world to invest in new, cleaner technologies," a spokesman said.

However, Duncan McLaren, the chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, dismissed the latest development.

"So far, all that we have seen, and that includes leaked documents obtained by The Scotsman, is very much another case of window dressing," he said.

"The policy seems to be to get the US to agree to anything in which the British government can then claim to have made progress at Gleneagles and the G8 summit.

"We still have a situation whereby all the major developed countries have agreed to the Kyoto Treaty except for the US. America ... must be faced down by Blair so it plays a full part. Otherwise, countries like China will not sign up."

Greenpeace said: "Blair may as well have not bothered to cross the Atlantic. He calls climate change the gravest problem this planet faces, but the response from George Bush is worse than pathetic.

"The Prime Minister has argued with grand rhetoric on climate change, but President Bush is simply unwilling to deliver."

Colin Breed, the Liberal Democrats' environment spokesman, said it would be unacceptable for Mr Blair to paper over the cracks on Kyoto with a Gleneagles document that put a spin on what the US was doing anyway.

"Committing to spend a certain amount on technology would be a pretty meaningless declaration unless the Americans pledge to use this new technology for specific targets on greenhouse gas emissions," he said. "Unless the Bush administration sets down targets to actually use it, such advances are pretty irrelevant."

The Kyoto Treaty was ratified by 140 countries but rejected unanimously by the US Senate - so President Bush has no authority to sign the treaty even if he was minded to.

The US has 4 per cent of the world's population but is responsible for 25 per cent of all emissions. Its defenders counter that it generates 30 per cent of the world's wealth, and is investing much of that in solving environmental problems.

It is committed to an 18 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over ten years and is spending $5.2 billion (2.8 billion) this year in a series of research programmes to look for alternatives to fossil fuels - as much for money-saving reasons as environmental ones.

And the United Nations says the US has increased its forests by 9.5 million acres since 1990 - four times as fast as Europe.

Mr Blair's intention that US investment will count in lieu of its Kyoto obligations is also likely to apply to China, which is researching fuel alternatives.

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