Blair bypasses Bush to build a consensus on climate change

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair is to devote himself to fighting global warming when he quits power this summer by promoting an American rethink on the Kyoto protocol.

He discussed his plans for a post-Bush consensus with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, who has made climate change a priority for her presidency of the G8 and the EU.

Mr Blair is using Globe, an international forum for parliamentarians to discuss global warming, to persuade the big three polluters, America, China and India, to join global action to tackle climate change.

The Secretary of State for Environment, David Miliband, a Blair ally, will use a speech by video-link to a Globe conference in Washington today to call for a dramatic shift by the United States in favour of a successor to the Kyoto agreement on climate change.

The forum is one of the few places where US senators can discuss climate change with Indian and Chinese politicians in spite of the reluctance of the White House to engage in discussion of the Kyoto targets.

Mr Blair's aim is to prepare the ground for a new US president to take over in January 2009. He believes the German presidency of the EU and G8 could prove decisive in driving forward the agenda. "It's one of the reasons he wanted to stay on until June. He thinks he can be a decisive influence at the G8," said an ally. "He sees it as a legacy issue.

"Tony Blair has a huge amount of credibility over here on the issue of climate change. There is an opportunity for him, once he formally steps down, to utilise his contacts and credibility on the international stage to engage Democrats and Republicans in a consensus on climate change."

President George Bush refused to sign up to the Kyoto targets, but Mr Miliband will call for US states, led by California, to sidestep the White House by linking up to the EU emissions-trading scheme after the Kyoto agreement runs out in 2012. Mr Miliband will write to nine US states to ask them to build on the agreement last year reached by Mr Blair with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governor of California, on a trading scheme.

The pressure for US states to sign up to the EU emissions action will be reinforced by Stephen Byers, a former cabinet minister, who chairs a key working party for Globe on market mechanisms to stop global warming. Mr Byers said inWashington last night: "Irrespective of the view from the White House, the political mood in America is changing. We need to seize this opportunity to begin discussions now aimed at bringing America alongside other countries in fighting climate change."

The leader of the UK delegation to Globe, Elliot Morley, a former minister, also will deliver a hard-hitting speech warning that the world cannot afford to miss the opportunity to take action on global warming after the Kyoto agreement runs out.

A new energy White Paper to be published in the UK within weeks will also be presented as a blueprint for climate-change measures. It will argue that a new generation of nuclear power stations can help to curb CO2 emissions, and with alternative energy sources such as wind farms, help to protect the UK against energy blackmail from Russia or Middle East rogue states.

Mr Miliband has given a clear hint that the Government will use the energy White Paper to present nuclear power in the UK as beneficial for combating climate change. "In the context of climate change, environmentalists (and conservationist conservatives) will have to question some of their traditional positions, whether on nuclear power, expanding wind power or the use of agricultural land for biofuels," he said.

The Labour MP and environmental campaigner Alan Simpson said: "They are going to use the white paper as a cover for more nuclear power. It is entirely wrong-headed."