Blair to Press on Climate Change, Challenge Bush
LONDON Britain's Tony Blair will make an uncompromising speech on climate change on Tuesday, urging the world to act in concert and pressing Washington to change its stance.
Government sources say the prime minister's speech, to environmental experts, should not be seen as a cooling of relations with President George W. Bush.
Blair has long promised to make the environment and cutting greenhouse gases the centerpiece of Britain's presidency of the G8 in 2005.
Bush refused to sign up to the 1997 Kyoto treaty on greenhouse gases, saying it would be too costly. The United States is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Blair's focus on the environment an issue traditionally close to the heart of his Labor Party comes as he seeks to appease voters who have been angered by his support for Bush over the Iraq war before an expected general election next year.
His main political opponent Michael Howard, leader of the opposition Conservative Party, made his own foray into the subject on Monday, saying Blair's inability to make Washington shift on climate change demonstrates his impotence with Bush.
"No one can opt out of the fight against global warming," said Howard, a former environment secretary who signed the Climate Change Convention, the forerunner of Kyoto.
Persuading the Americans
"That means persuading the Americans to join the battle against climate change," Howard continued. "It is very disappointing that Tony Blair has not succeeded in persuading the present administration that the challenge of global warming is one that cannot be shirked."
Howard pledged that a Conservative government would commit to expand renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
Blair's passionate plea for the world to act on climate change is nothing new but its timing less than two months before U.S. presidential elections is telling. His Labor government has committed Britain to green technology and more efficient use of energy to achieve a 60 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2050.
Environmental pressure groups said they welcomed Blair's intervention, although some critics said they had heard the prime minister talk passionately about climate change before, only to see little follow-up action.
"Tony Blair has a historic opportunity to lead the world in the crucial battle against climate change," Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper said. "We are delighted that he will be putting it at the top of the E.U. 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," he said.
Sir David King, the government's chief scientist, has stated that global warming poses a greater threat to the world than terrorism.