Blair and Putin agree to push for action on climate change

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair has the support of Vladimir Putin for action on climate change at the forthcoming G8 summit at Gleneagles.

Tony Blair has the support of Vladimir Putin for action on climate change at the forthcoming G8 summit at Gleneagles.

The Prime Minister and the Russian President agreed yesterday to work together to put pressure on other countries which have not signed the Kyoto agreement, including the United States, to do more to meet the challenges of global warming.

Speaking at the presidential dacha on the outskirts of Moscow, Mr Blair said he was optimistic about making "progress'' on climate change at the G8 summit early next month.

"I think there is a real prospect of progress on Africa and climate change at the G8 summit,'' he said. "One thing I have learnt about these negotiations is that it is not too wise to claim progress until it is certain, but the debt deal [on Africa] announced at the weekend is a good omen for the summit.''

Mr Putin said the Russian approach to climate change and the G8 was close to that of Mr Blair's, after their bilateral talks which appear to have put the rift over the Iraq war to one side.

Mr Putin and Mr Blair went for a walk in the woods surrounding the country house after their talks. Clearly determined to repair the diplomatic damage, Mr Blair opened his press conference with Mr Putin by apologising for his failure to attend the National Victory Day celebration in Red Square for the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

While other world leaders attended, Mr Blair sent John Prescott his deputy, who appeared to be relegated to the back row for the diplomatic pictures.

"Because the commemoration took place on May 9, shortly after the British election, I was preoccupied with deciding the new government,'' Mr Blair said.

"I was unable to attend that commemoration. I hope you will permit me to pay my own tribute to the courage, determination and heroism of the Russian people and their armed forces in the way they resisted Fascism and the Nazis and helped ensure that our people live in freedom."

He said co-operation between Britain and Russia during the course of the Second World War was among the main elements in achieving victory for the Allied forces. "I am pleased to say that our bilateral relationship is very strong,'' said Mr Blair.

The Russian commitment on climate change was not an easy process, said Mr Putin. However he emphasised Russia had signed the agreement, and in a side-swipe at the United States he added: "It is important how it will be followed up in practice. It is important to work with those countries who did not accept this process.''

Britain and Russia will now seek to persuade George Bush to accept lesser targets - so-called "Kyoto lite" - in the sure knowledge that Mr Putin will continue with the agenda when Britain hands over the G8 presidency at the end of the year.

Mr Blair tried to persuade Mr Bush in Washington last week that China and India were ready to do more on sustainable energy which could answer US complaints that signing up to Kyoto would mean exporting US jobs to those countries.