Britain, California to Work Together on Global Warming
LOS ANGELES Britain and California agreed on Monday to work together to reduce greenhouse gases linked to global warming.
As part of the agreement, Britain and the U.S. state will investigate whether they can cooperate on an emissions trading scheme, said a spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who will launch the agreement in California later on Monday.
Most scientists link greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide emitted from the burning of fossil fuels to global warming that could lead to heat waves, stronger storms, and flooding from rising sea levels.
California's Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has pursued a strong environmental agenda, putting him at odds with fellow Republican President George W. Bush who withdrew the United States from the Kyoto Protocol on global warming in 2001, saying its caps on greenhouse gases would cost jobs.
"The environmental and economic consequences of climate change and our dependency on fossil fuels compel both California and the United Kingdom to commit to urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote low carbon technologies," Britain and California will say in a joint statement.
Emissions trading schemes, such as the European Union's, work by placing mandatory limits on the production of greenhouse gases. Bush, however, has called for voluntary measures to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases.
A spokesman for the British Consulate-General in Los Angeles said Blair and Schwarzenegger were not sidestepping Bush on global warming. "That's explicitly not what we're doing," he said, adding that the meeting will mostly focus on boosting alternative energy.
Monday's talks are an extension of discussions about reducing greenhouse gases between Bush and Blair at the recent Group of Eight (G8) meeting, said a spokeswoman for James Connaughton, Bush's top environment adviser.
Connaughton will not attend Monday's event due to a prior engagement, she said.
Blair has made tackling global warming a priority. His credibility suffered a blow in March when Britain said it would miss its own target to slash carbon dioxide emissions, although that target was much more ambitious than Britain's commitment under Kyoto.
Blair has called for the world to work on an agreement to tackle climate change after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. To be successful, Blair argues that any new agreement must include emerging economies like China and India, as well as the United States.
Schwarzenegger has endorsed measures to reduce industrial emissions of greenhouse gases, but has stopped short of calling for a hard cap on them.
BIG BUSINESS AND EMISSIONS
The initiative was due to be launched at an event in the Los Angeles area later on Monday attended by Blair, Schwarzenegger, and high-profile executives including BP Chief Executive John Browne and Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson.
Europe's ETS is the only mandatory carbon market in the world, with trading that could reach a total of $30 billion by the end of the year. The EU set up the scheme to meet its Kyoto obligations.
Carbon traders and some environment analysts say global links between the ETS and other developing carbon markets might one day lead to a more liquid and efficient market that could play a big role in cutting emissions of heat-trapping gases.
A voluntary market in Chicago trades greenhouse gas credits but prices for them cost a fraction of what they do under the mandatory ETS. In addition, a group of seven states in the East is forming a market that could start trading credits in 2009.
In emissions markets, industry is set limits on the amount of heat-trapping gases they may release. Companies that reduce emissions can then bank the credits or sell them to other firms that haven't taken action on cutting their emissions.
(Timothy Gardner reported from New York)