G8 “Must Lead Climate Control”

With much of Europe angered by President Bush's withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, Prime Minister Tony Blair will go over the president's head this week to appeal directly to US business leaders. The chief executives of most of the biggest corporations in the world - some of them notorious polluters - will be meeting this week at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Blair will soon hold the presidency of both the G8 industrialized nations and the European Union, and has pledged to make action on climate change a hallmark of his leadership. In his speech at the Forum, the Prime Minister will ask executives for help in reducing carbon emissions. "Blair will stand in front of a large number of all kinds of US industry and tell them something they won't hear from their president. That's very important," says one observer. - YaleGlobal

G8 "Must Lead Climate Control"

Tony Blair will go over President Bush's head tomorrow to appeal directly to US business leaders
Matthew Tempest
Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Tony Blair will go over the head of President Bush tomorrow to appeal directly to US business leaders to back his plans for action on climate change.

The prime minister flies to Davos in Switzerland tomorrow, where he will address the World Economic Forum of corporate executives and push his vision for tackling carbon emissions in the wake of the US refusal to sign the Kyoto protocol.

President Bush will not be present at the meeting, but it will give the PM a chance to argue for reductions face to face with some of the worst polluters on the planet whilst chairing the G8 group of industrialised nations.

Today at a conference to present the findings of the International Climate Change Taskforce, the former minister Stephen Byers, also a close confidante of the PM, said: "It's good he's going to talk to an audience that never normally hears this and has a lot of respect for Tony Blair.

"He will stress this as a priority. The PM is very seized by the importance of climate change."

President Bush, who pulled out of the Kyoto treaty on reducing greenhouse gases early in 2001, is not attending Davos, though the chief executives of most of the 1,000 biggest corporations in the world will be there, as well as 20 heads of state.

This morning's report from the ICCT, headed by Mr Byers and the US Republican senator for Maine, Olympia Snowe, calls for setting a target of a 2% increase in average global temperatures as a limit, establishing a G8 climate-change group, and establishing a global protocol that builds on Kyoto.

Mr Byers refused to say whether, post-Kyoto, Mr Blair gave each recommendation his personal blessing, but both the Institute for Public Policy Research, which conducted the research, and Mr Byers himself, have records as Blairite 'outriders.'

Adair Turner, a former head of the CBI and member of the panel, said: "Blair will stand in front of a large number of all kinds of US industry and tell them something they won't hear from their president. That's very important."

And Jonathon Porritt, another panel member, and chair of the UK sustainable development commission, said: "Blair is very serious - one of the few world leaders who takes climate change seriously."

It is known that Mr Blair is determined to have climate change and his Commission for Africa as the hallmarks of both his G8 presidency and the forthcoming UK presidency of the EU.

Signalling that the US administration may be liable to pressure from business leaders, Mr Byers pointed to the worries of the insurance and financial sectors in being a "counterveiling force" to the "stranglehold" that the oil industry has on the presidency.

He said: "Bush is very close to Texas oil. [They have] a stranglehold on policy that hasn't been helping, but the financial and insurance sector are a counterveiling force, spending billions of dollars on extreme weather.

"In my view, in the first term [of president Bush] the door on climate change was locked. In the second term it is unlocked - but closed.

"The prime minister is very seized by the importance of climate change and what we have got to do is provide him with some ammo he can fire, and also with a hard wall we can push him against if he starts to waver."

Mr Byers called climate change an "ecological time bomb" and suggested Tony Blair's chairmanship of the G8 later this year could prove the catalyst for US action on global warming.

He told Sky News: "We have to accept the settled will of America is against Kyoto. Congress voted 96-0 against it, Democrats as well as Republicans."

"What we have got to do then is get the Americans, as part of the G8, to engage in international concerted effort to tackle global warming," he said.

"America is key here and I have found in my meetings over in America that the political mood is changing."

The report also argues that all G8 countries should set a precedent by adopting national targets to generate at least 25% of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025, and mandatory caps and trade schemes for emissions.

It also wants to see money currently spend on the Common Agricultural Policy redirected to biofuel crops.

A spokesman for the Green party called the measures "inadequate window dressing to persuade the public the government is serious about climate change".

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