Blair Under Pressure to Prod Bush on Kyoto

By Nicola Brent | July 7, 2008 | 8:15 PM EDT

( - As British Prime Minister Tony Blair prepares to meet his newly re-elected counterpart in Washington Thursday, he is coming under increasing domestic pressure to persuade President Bush to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

Political opponents, environmental campaigners and even (reportedly) Queen Elizabeth II have weighed in on the matter.

Blair recently said that Britain would use its presidencies of the G8 group of industrialized nations and the European Union next year to move forward international action on climate change.

The 1997 treaty, which commits specified developed nations to targets of reducing emissions of "greenhouse gases," will come into force early in the new year, following Russia's long-delayed decision to ratify it last month.

Bush pulled out of the protocol in 2001, saying curbs on emissions would harm U.S. workers and the economy.

Britain's environment minister Margaret Beckett last week rejected accusations that Blair had not done enough to address global warming, saying the U.S. government had been put on notice "for a year or more" that once Britain takes presidency of the G8, climate change would be a priority.

In a speech last September, Blair said his first challenge as G8 head was to "secure an agreement as to the basic science on climate change and the threat it poses."

He acknowledged diverging views within the grouping, but said he believed an agreement was achievable.

When he withdrew from Kyoto, Bush also citing its bias of excluding developing nations such as China and India from any requirement to restrict carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by specific amounts.

The world's most populous country already accounts for around 13 percent of global emissions, ranking second after the U.S.

The environmental group Greenpeace estimates that on current trends, China will pass the U.S. as the biggest polluter by 2025.

Domestic pressure has been steadily building on Blair to demonstrate his ability to sway his American ally.

Britain's third-largest party, the Liberal Democrats, called on Blair "to use his influence with George Bush to ensure Kyoto is properly implemented by the American government."

Environmental groups made similar calls, with Greenpeace urging the U.S. to "stop denying global warming."

And the Queen surprised observers by opening a climate change conference in Germany last week, prompting speculation that she was adding to the pressure on Blair.


In 2001, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences reviewed scientific thinking on climate change, and concluded "... a causal linkage between the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the observed climate changes during the 20th century cannot be unequivocally established."

Blair has publicly challenged such questioning, asserting that "apart from a diminishing handful of skeptics, there is a virtual worldwide scientific consensus on the scope of the problem."

Those who question both the value of the Kyoto Protocol and the effect of greenhouse gas emissions straddle both sides of the Atlantic, however.

In his latest book, Cato Institute senior fellow Patrick Michaels argues that the effects of global warming are modest, and he says that nature and humans will easily adjust.

In Britain, bio-geography professor emeritus Philip Stott at the University of London last week wrote scathingly of the Kyoto Protocol and Europe's "ecochondriacs."

In an article in The Times, Stott said the agreement would "do nothing about climate change: at the most it will delay changes by two years over the next century."

"To declare otherwise is to mislead," he said. "Tony Blair's addiction to the Kyoto Protocol is dangerous."

Stott warned that the "more snooty old Europe rattles on about these issues, the more it will drive a wedge between America and itself."

"More embarrassingly, most European countries are far from attaining their own emission targets, although they freely lecture the good folk of Ohio and Oklahoma."

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