Environmentalists urged British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday to consider leaving a skeptical United States behind as he tries to unite the world's leading powers behind urgent action against global warming ahead of the G-8 summit.
BERLIN Environmentalists urged British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday to consider leaving a skeptical United States behind as he tries to unite the world's leading powers behind urgent action against global warming ahead of the G-8 summit.
Blair has made climate change a central issue of Britain's G-8 presidency, describing it as "probably the most serious threat we face." He wants an agreement among G-8 leaders on the scientific threat posed by global warming and the urgent need for action.
The U.S. rejects the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, and environmentalists say three other G-8 members -- Canada, Italy and Japan -- are far from reaching their emissions targets.
President Bush described climate change as a "significant" issue in an interview being broadcast Monday. Still, he called for shifting the debate away from limits on greenhouse gas emissions to new technology that would reduce environmental damage without restricting energy use.
"Our expectations on a unanimous ... strong agreement are very low, because George Bush isn't going to change his mind," said Stephanie Tunmore, a campaigner with the environmental group Greenpeace. "We would hope that wouldn't stop the other G-8 leaders coming out with a strong statement."
Underlining trans-Atlantic differences, French President Jacques Chirac said Sunday that climate change is a matter of increasing concern.
"That's why we have indicated clearly to our partners that we could only accept a solution if it took account of a certain number of realities," he said.
Chirac called for a statement on the issue to include specific mention of the Kyoto Protocol, which took effect in February and obliges participating industrialized nations to reduce their combined greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent below their 1990 levels by 2012.
On Monday, a British official involved in pre-summit talks said the G-8 could reach an accord on global warming that recognizes the problem and the need to combat it.
The discussions "were pretty intense" on the issues of climate change and the effect farm subsidies have on global trade, especially in Africa, said Sir Michael Jay, Prime Minister Tony Blair's representative.
"But I do sense a real desire, if possible, to reach an agreement on these two issues," he said at a news conference.
The Financial Times reported Monday that the G-8 leaders look set to reach an accord on climate change that explicitly recognizes that science compels the world to act to contain greenhouse gases and that carbon emissions need to be cut.
Bush, in an interview with Britain's ITV television Monday, renewed his insistence that Washington would not sign the Kyoto Protocol.
"My hope is -- and I think the hope of Tony Blair is -- to move beyond the Kyoto debate and to collaborate on new technologies that will enable the United States and other countries to diversify away from fossil fuels so that the air will be cleaner and that we have the economic and national security that comes from less dependence on foreign sources of oil," Bush said.
Jennifer Morgan, director of World Wide Fund for Nature's climate change program, charged that "the Bush administration is not only failing to deal with the threat of climate change but is also actively trying to water down the G8's efforts on the issues."
"If the U.S. is lagging behind, then it's time for them to be left behind," she said.
But British officials didn't see Bush's stand as an obstacle.
"It is extremely well known that the American government has not signed up to Kyoto," Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told reporters Monday.
"That does not, however, mean that the results of the G-8 summit later this week will be unsatisfactory," he said.
Source: Associated Press