PM ignores calls to criticise Bush over global warming

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Tony Blair will avoid outright criticism of President George Bush's record on climate change today in his keynote speech to business leaders at the world economic summit in Davos.

Tony Blair will avoid outright criticism of President George Bush's record on climate change today in his keynote speech to business leaders at the world economic summit in Davos.

The Prime Minister's refusal to attack the US President over White House policy has dismayed British campaigners and advisers who warned Mr Blair yesterday that delay in taking action risks bringing catastrophe to the world. At a breakfast seminar in Downing Street yesterday, lobbyists urged Mr Blair to be tougher.

However, Mr Blair said that he did not believe attacking Mr Bush's intransigence over targets set in Kyoto in 1997 was the right way to influence US policy. He will invite American business leaders to act to combat climate change. "He said he would be telling US businessmen that this is an opportunity for them. He is going to use the carrot rather than the big stick," said a leading environmentalist who was at the meeting.

An adviser to the Prime Minister said: "Green groups were quite tough on Tony. They said, 'We like what you are saying, but you have to deliver.'"

Environmental groups called on Mr Blair yesterday to distance himself from Mr Bush. Stephen Tindale, the UK executive director of Greenpeace, said: "Blair has to stop kow-towing to big business and the Bush administration and announce some concrete measures to cut emissions. Only some real action will restore faith in his willingness to tackle this global crisis."

Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said: "Tony Blair must tell company bosses their campaigns to block climate change action must cease."

The Prime Minister will go to Davos with the alarming report presented simultaneously yesterday in London, Washington and Sydney by the international climate-change taskforce. As revealed in The Independent on Monday, the report, Meeting the Climate Challenge, warns that the world could be less than a decade from an irreversible catastrophe unless it takes action to reverse global warming.

Stephen Byers, the Blairite former cabinet minister and co-chairman of the group, said: "We know President Bush is very close to Texas oil and they have a stranglehold over the US energy policy. But there is a countervailing force in America that is the financial and insurance sector. They are paying out billions of dollars a year to settle claims on severe weather conditions. They are putting significant pressure on the White House." Mr Byers said the green lobby would have to remind Mr Blair that he had his back to the wall.

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, said: "The Prime Minister is showing a dangerous naïvety if he thinks that the US will meet him halfway. In the so-called 'special relationship' it is all give from one side and all take from the other. President Bush will not agree to any substantial targets, and it would be folly to weaken the UK's position trying to persuade him."

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