EU climate change efforts failing, says US envoy

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The Independent Online

Europe's carbon emissions trading system "simply isn't working", according to America's top diplomat to the EU, who has poured cold water on the idea that California might try to join a transatlantic scheme. In a defence of George Bush's record, C Boyden Gray, said the US was doing its share in tackling global warming and leading the world in developing technology to beat climate change.

His comments angered European environmental experts, one of whom described them as "plain wrong".

Mr Gray said: "Without China and India I don't think it [carbon trading] works. If you could get a structure that would bring them in, it's a whole new ballgame. You have to have them."

The US ambassador to the EU added: "This is why Europe is having so much trouble with their own emissions trading system. It's not working, it simply isn't working. Member states are rejecting the Commission's allocations because to do this unilaterally - or even if we were part of it, for the transatlantic to do it unilaterally - without India and China would just be to ship these jobs to where there are no costs. There are no controls for any pollutants in China so then traditional pollutants, fine particles, ozones get blown back over California."

In the US, there is growing interest in the idea of emissions trading among north-east and east coast states, and speculation that California might seek to join the EU scheme.

Asked whether that would be legally possible, Mr Gray replied: "I don't think so, no. I just don't think it's going to happen anyway."

He also rejected European perceptions that California's efforts on climate change put it out in front of the Bush administration.

Mr Gray said: "I don't think California is ahead of the federal government but I would suggest to you in response that Sweden is ahead of the European Commission. That's just a suggestion."

Mr Gray has a long association with the Bush family, and served as the White House legal counsel for George Bush Snr from 1989 to 1993. No stranger to ideological battles, he does not contest the science of global warming, arguing "the President hasn't changed his mind, he has consistently said the climate is warming and man has contributed to it."

He also agrees the issue has risen up the agenda and that "the two sides of the Atlantic are converging on this" while "climate change is becoming a matter of more awareness in the US". What he disputes, however, is Europe's superiority on environmental issues. He said: "I think we are doing our share... The commitment for biofuels is twice what Europe has proposed."

That did not convince European environmentalists. Tom Burke, visiting professor at University College, London, said: "He's plain wrong and it sounds like he's clutching at straws to defend an indefensible policy."

Mr Gray may not have endeared himself to Latvia's European Energy Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, by mistakenly suggesting he comes from Lithuania.

Underlining the growing importance of a EU energy policy, Mr Gray said: "Two years ago when they set the current Commission up, nobody wanted energy. So it went to Lithuania. We are slighting Lithuania here but none of the bigger states wanted energy so it went to Lithuania. I think we are lucky because Piebalgs is really, really good so maybe they did everybody a favour."

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