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"Greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced"
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Monday, 16 April, 2001, 22:57 GMT 23:57 UK
Prescott pressures US on climate treaty
Power station towers
Kyoto set targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is set to argue against the US decision to abandon the Kyoto Treaty on global warming during a visit to America.

Mr Prescott flew from the UK on Monday and will meet US officials in New York and Washington during his trip, although his department said Kyoto was not the purpose of the visit.

We must argue with the Americans and get them to agree that we have to have a global solution

John Prescott
President George W Bush's decision to ditch the Kyoto Protocol, which pledged a 5% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2010, enraged environment campaigners earlier this month.

The Conservatives said reports that Kyoto was not on the official agenda were an "embarrassment" for Mr Prescott.

The deputy prime minister is reported to be leading calls from cabinet ministers for Prime Minister Tony Blair to confront the US president over the issue.

'Progress possible'

He is hopeful of securing a breakthrough in the stalled talks.

"We must argue with the Americans and get them to agree that we have to have a global solution and America is an important part of that solution," he said on Sunday.

"So I will be over there arguing the case again," he said.

America has 4% of the world's population but causes 25% of greenhouse gas emissions.

John Prescott
Prescott: Way forward possible
Mr Prescott, who was a key negotiator at Kyoto in 1997, warned climate change was coming and said: "It doesn't recognise national boundaries - it's global. We have to make a contribution."

He would not reveal what negotiating tactics he would use on his US visit but said it was the president's father who agreed to the original deal at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

"His father signed it and was a force in that. A lot of American firms at Kyoto were pressing me very hard and saying 'We don't want this, it will destroy business'.

"But many American businesses have now seen it is important to make changes."

Commercial pressure

He claimed US motor manufacturers were now looking to meet the greener standards demanded in Europe.

Mr Prescott said: "All these pressures are not necessarily leading in one way.

"President Bush will find that some of his American companies do argue that in fact it can be in their interest in global trading to be part of carbon emissions (hot gas) trading."

Peter Ewins, chief executive of the Met Office, said there was no doubt that global warming was a reality.

But he said ill-informed comments by European politicians were making it easier for President Bush to duck America's responsibilities to help tackle the problem.

"UK Government ministers are remarkably well-informed and measured in what they say," he said.

"My criticism is reserved for some people in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe who seem to suggest that one-off severe weather events are in themselves proof of global warming.

'The case is so strong'

"These statements do damage the case, which we think is so strong.

"It is easy for the Bush administration to rubbish the idea that a one-off severe event, like a flood or a drought, is caused by global warming, and therefore it makes it easier for them to refute the whole European stance."

A spokesman for the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions played down reports that Mr Prescott was going to America to kick-start the stalled climate talks.

He said the deputy prime minister was going to the US for meetings of the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development.

Mr Prescott would voice his views on the US decision "if Kyoto comes up", but that was not the purpose of his long-scheduled trip, he added.

Mark Johnston, of Friends of the Earth, told the BBC: "I don't think there will be a solid result in the US."

He said any talks would only be informal but there would be the chance to press President Bush on the issue at summit meetings later this year.

Amid reports that Kyoto was not on the agenda for the US talks as anticipated, the Times quoted Tory shadow environment secretary Archie Norman attacking Mr Prescott's "sad record" on climate change.

"It looks as though this is going to be another embarrassing episode and another disappointment for environmentalists," he added.

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See also:

13 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Blair urged to tackle Bush over Kyoto
11 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Crunch time nears for climate treaty
10 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
EU woos Japan on climate pact
07 Apr 01 | Americas
EU ready to renegotiate Kyoto
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