Sat, Jul 02, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Blair may snub US on climate change at G8 conference


British Prime Minister Tony Blair is contemplating an unprecedented rift with the US over climate change at the G8 summit next week, which will lead to a final communique agreed by seven countries with US President George W. Bush left out on a limb.

The alternative is to face a "catastrophic failure" of his plan to get concerted action to combat global warming, which he has long said is the greatest threat the world faces.

British government colleagues have described the prime minister as showing great courage in sticking to his guns, despite being advised that it is "a very dangerous thing to do politically" because his strategy has no certain outcome.

`split communique'

It would be the first time that the G8 has faced a "split" communique -- and with the world's most powerful country in a minority of one.

The size of the task facing the negotiators trying to avoid this outcome became apparent on Thursday when the Guardian was leaked the disputed text on climate change which is to go before the G8 leaders next week in Gleneagles, Scotland.

So far apart are the US and the rest of the G8 that the senior civil servants from all eight countries were meeting yesterday and today in an attempt to avoid a showdown between the leaders.

The text, described as "the base for Friday, Saturday meeting," shows that the US refuses to accept either the science surrounding climate change or that the burning of fossil fuels is contributing to it.

US objections

The US is objecting to these words: "Climate change is a serious and long-term challenge that has the potential to affect every part of the globe.

There is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring and that human activity is contributing to this warming."

All the G8 nations accept the next sentence: "Global energy demands are expected to grow by 60 percent over the next 25 years.

This has the potential to cause a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions associated with climate change."

However the next sentence is also disputed by the US. It reads: "But we know that we need to slow, stop and then reverse the growth in greenhouse gases to reduce our exposure to potentially serious economic, environmental and security risks."

One possible compromise London has considered is to drop the climate change clauses in return for agreement to discuss action on greenhouse gas emissions.

This would let the US continue to refuse to acknowledge climate science while at least encouraging Bush to discuss with the rest of the G8 measures to combat its causes.

However, up to now the US has refused to do even this.

The fact that heads of state are being left to discuss these fundamentals demonstrates that "the prime minister is prepared to go down to the wire," colleagues said.

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