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Bush Cool to Blair on Climate

The president refuses to bend on Kyoto, saying the premier's backing in Iraq is a separate matter. Global warming is a priority for the G-8.

July 05, 2005|John Daniszewski and Ron DePasquale | Special to The Times

LONDON — As world leaders prepared for a major summit, President Bush said Monday that he would not substantially change his stance on global warming to reward British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his support of the war in Iraq.

"I really don't view our relationship as one of quid pro quo," Bush said. "Tony Blair made decisions on what he thought was best for keeping the peace and winning the war on terror, as I did."

Reiterating his opposition to the Kyoto Protocol that mandates targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, Bush told Britain's ITV1 channel that he would reject any measures that "look like Kyoto." The United States is the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide, but Bush has rejected the treaty because its provisions, he said, would "wreck the U.S. economy."

Blair is the host of the Group of 8 summit that begins Wednesday in Gleneagles, Scotland, and he has made the issues of climate change and increasing assistance to Africa the top priorities of the meeting.

The annual gathering attracts protesters denouncing globalization and capitalism, and in recent years, the Iraq war. Demonstrators clashed with police Monday on the streets of Edinburgh, about 40 miles south of the exclusive golf resort where Bush and Blair and the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia will meet. Thousands of police were being deployed in the area to cope with an expected onslaught of demonstrators.

In the days leading to the summit, aides to Bush have sought to dispel his international image as a cowboy. His administration has announced plans to double development aid to Africa by 2010, although not in the way Blair and other G-8 leaders had proposed.

Although he rejected any "quid pro quo" on climate change, Bush acknowledged that human activity was at least partly responsible for the apparent warming of the planet in recent years.

And he said that there might be other compromises the United States and other nations could make to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being produced.

In the past, European leaders have been frustrated that U.S. officials have disputed scientific evidence of accelerated warming and questioned whether the phenomenon posed a real threat to the planet.

Asked in the interview whether climate change was "man-made," Bush replied, "To a certain extent it is, obviously."

"You know, look, there was a debate of Kyoto, and I made the decision -- as did a lot of other people in this country, by the way -- that the Kyoto treaty didn't suit our needs. In other words, the Kyoto treaty would have wrecked our economy, if I can be blunt."

Bush denied, though, that he was putting U.S. economic interests above the interests of the planet.

"My hope 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 of foreign sources of oil," he said.

"To that end, we're investing in a lot of ... research on hydrogen-powered automobiles. I believe we'll be able to burn coal without emitting any greenhouse gases," he said, also citing his support for "more nuclear power."

The Kyoto Protocol took effect in February after ratification by 141 countries -- including every industrialized nation except Australia and the United States. It aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to about 5% below 1990 levels by 2012.

In addition to economic concerns, Bush has rejected the pact because of objections to the way it divides emissions cutbacks between developed and undeveloped countries.

However, American officials say the U.S. is making progress on its own goals for reducing carbon emissions.

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw said U.S. opposition to the Kyoto treaty was long-standing and well known, but remained optimistic that the summit would yield results.

"Each country comes to these negotiations ... with its own national perspective," Straw said at a news conference. But he said it was "remarkable how far sentiment has moved in the period since the prime minister identified aid to Africa and climate change as the key" issues to be addressed.

Lower-ranking government officials involved in the summit planning worked over the weekend, hammering out wording on communiques covering both climate change and aid to Africa. Michael Jay, a British Foreign Office official, told reporters that the weekend talks had been "pretty intense" and that Britain remained hopeful that a "consensus agreement on climate change" would be signed at Gleneagles.

The Financial Times reported Monday that the eight countries would adopt a joint "action plan" on climate change, although it would stop short of making specific emission-reduction targets. The statement would also contain language referring to a growing consensus among scientists about the problem, the paper said.

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