11 July 2005

Blair: Climate change talks are a small victory

Tony Blair has papered over the cracks in the G8 on climate change by announcing that a "new dialogue" will be launched between the world's richest countries and the emerging nations.

A new meeting, which Britain will host on 1 November, was yesterday touted as the centrepiece of measures to combat global warming at the Gleneagles summit. It was aimed at keeping efforts to combat global warming high on the political agenda once Britain hands over the G8 to Russia at the end of the year.

But, the measures on climate change fell far short of campaigners' demands and they accused US President George W Bush of sabotaging progress.

Mr Bush left Gleneagles still resisting signing up to the Kyoto protocol to impose cuts in harmful emissions on the US economy. "We were never going to be able at this G8 to resolve the disagreement over Kyoto nor to renegotiate a set of targets for countries in place of Kyoto," said Mr Blair.

The G8 remains divided over Kyoto, although Mr Blair ensured that President Bush was not isolated in the final communiqué.

Mr Blair said: "If it is impossible to bring America into the consensus on tackling the issue of climate change we will never ensure the huge emerging countries, particularly China and India are going to be part of the dialogue. If we couldn't get America, India and China [involved] there is no possibility of us succeeding in resolving this issue."

The communiqué commits the G8 to slowing, stopping and then reversing climate change, but with no target date. The G8 committed to continue tackling illegal logging and managing the impact of climate change, with the promotion of clean fuels and energy-saving technology.

In his summary, Mr Blair said: "All of us agreed that climate change is happening now, that human activity is contributing to it and that it could affect every part of the globe."

But, the US succeeded in removing key sentences from the text, including the first draft's opening statement - "Our world is warming" - and the point that climate change represented an "urgent" threat. Jacques Chirac, the French president, and Gerhard Schröder, the German Chancellor, insisted on a reference to Kyoto targets, but it was moved to the end of the text.

Campaigners plan to pursue Mr Blair with demands for action on global warming. He put climate change high on the agenda for Britain's EU presidency, and demands for tougher action on global warming by the EU could reopen a rift between Europe and the Bush administration.

Mr Bush secured one of the key items on his own list of demands by seeking to bind China and India into the attempts by the G8 to tackle global warming as part of the new dialogue.

Jennifer Morgan of the World Wildlife Fund said: "There has been no movement by the US. It means there are 12 countries here - seven in the G8 and the five emerging nations - who are moving forward and the US which is out of step."

Stephen Tindale of Greenpeace said: "We are disappointed. Bush has not shifted. The other seven members of the G8 have not shifted but at least they have not gone down to Bush's level

"The people who will pay the price for a failure to meet a moral responsibility in Gleneagles are predominantly ... in the developed world."

Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth said: "The G8 are standing still. What we need now is a commitment to urgent action, not talks leading to more talks."

Mr Blair said he never expected the US to sign up for Kyoto and counted the summit as a success on the limited goals he set for progress on climate change. However, he has ensured it will be carried forward by the Russian G8 presidency.

Source: news.independent.co.uk


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