Stern warns Bush over global warming

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The Independent US

Sir Nicholas Stern, senior advisor to the British government on the economic impact of climate change, will today warn the Bush administration that America must act now to confront global warming.

In comments that will further expose the isolation of President George Bush's approach to climate change, the economist will urge action from the world's biggest single emitter of greenhouse gases. He will warn of both the environmental and economic dangers if Washington continues to refuse to act.

"The scientific evidence is now overwhelming – climate change is a serious global threat and it demands and urgent global response," Sir Nicholas concluded in his ground-breaking report, published last year, which highlighted the economic damage climate change will led to if not confronted. "Because climate change is a global problem the response to it must be international."

Sir Nicholas's appearance before the US Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee will be just part of a British effort in the US this week designed to prod the Bush administration to act. Environment Secretary David Miliband will join Sir Nicholas in a two day forum organised by the G8 to talk about options for international agreement after the initial agreement of the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012.

Britain and other countries have made clear the necessity for the US – responsible for 25 per cent of the world's emissions – to participate. But the Bush administration has resolutely refused to impose legally-binding limits on emissions, claiming such an approach would damage the economy.

Sir Nicholas's message to lawmakers on Capitol Hill will be that from an economic perspective alone, the US cannot afford to wait to take action. "If we don't act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be the equivalent to losing at least five per cent of GDP each year now and forever," concluded his report. "If a wider range of risks is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20 per cent of GDP or more."

Given the Bush administration's refusal to act, Britain and other European countries are seeking to negotiate directly with individual US states and include them in a carbon trading programme. They hope nine north-eastern states and California will join the European Union's scheme as part of a step towards a global programme.

Last year Tony Blair's and California's governor Arnold Schwarzenegger agreed to work together to reduce greenhouse gases and promote technologies that produce less CO2. The Stern report praised states such as California for developing their own objectives and policy frameworks regarding the battle against global warming.

A spokesman for the British Embassy in Washington, said: "We work closely with the US Administration and have regular discussions on energy and climate issues, including through the G8 Gleneagles Dialogue. We're on the same page as to the urgent need to speed up the adoption of low-carbon technologies, but we realise there are many partners in the US with which to work. We've got everything to gain and nothing to lose from learning from each other's experiences."

Phil Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, a non-profit group, said: "It's clear now that there is going to be a major shift in US environmental policy, if not under George Bush then immediately under his successor. Bush is totally isolated. He's now at the point where senior members of his own party in Congress do not agree with him on global warming."

A spokesman for the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said: "We see the climate change issue differently to the Bush administration."

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