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Last Updated: Monday, 13 June 2005, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
US climate talks 'disappointing'
Sunset on the 118 or Ronald Reagan Freeway  (Getty)
Mr Blair wants to highlight climate change at the G8 summit
Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett has spoken of the UK government's frustration over America's failure to agree to take action on climate change.

UK prime minister Tony Blair and US President George Bush were unable to reach a deal on the issue during talks in Washington last week.

Mr Blair is hoping to highlight climate change at next month's G8 summit.

Mrs Beckett told The Independent the UK was "disappointed" that there was a lack of "common ground" over the issue.

Kyoto stalemate

She was speaking as Mr Blair began a round of shuttle diplomacy to seek support for the UK's agenda for the G8 summit of leading industrialised nations.

His first stop was a meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Monday, in a whirlwind tour that will take in four European capitals in 48 hours.

Tony had every intention of making climate change as well as Africa a top priority for our G8 year
Margaret Beckett
Environment Secretary

He will head on to Germany later on Monday and hold talks with leaders in France and Luxembourg on Tuesday.

He is aiming to secure agreement on plans for aid to Africa and climate change ahead of the summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in July.

The US has consistently refused to ratify the Kyoto treaty, which restricts the emissions of gases said to be responsible for global warming.

In an interview with The Independent, Mrs Beckett said it was clear that signing up to Kyoto was "off the agenda" for President Bush.

Engagement needed

She said he was "coming from a different place in the dialogue" on the issue of global warming.

The British government had made no secret that it wants Washington to be "more engaged" on the subject, she said.

Every nation, including the US, has to make cuts to greenhouse gases if we are going to save the planet
Robin Cook
Ex-foreign secretary

"Certainly there is a degree of disappointment that there isn't more common ground than there already is," she said.

President Bush was aware of the importance Mr Blair attached to addressing climate change during his presidency of the G8 summit, she said.

"He [Bush] has known for a long time. He has known since before it was in the public domain that Tony had every intention of making climate change as well as Africa a top priority for our G8 year," she said.

'Intrinsically linked'

Ex-foreign secretary Robin Cook said Mr Bush was "spectacularly out on a limb" over climate change - and he urged him to "accept the science".

He said climate change had to be treated as seriously as African poverty because the two were intrinsically linked.

"I am slightly puzzled at the extent to which there is not the same degree of public interest in what is going on with climate change within the G8," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"After all if Tony Blair is going to succeed... it is only going to be - as with debt and Africa - if he is able to show to the other leaders, particularly President Bush, that public opinion within the G8 demands action."

Mr Cook said: "If the global temperature goes up by another 2%, crop failure in Africa will increase by 50%. If we really want to help Africa... we have got to get our own pollution to that part of the world under control and stop climate change."

'Act now'

He said action was needed now as there was no time to find out if the Kyoto Protocol works.

"In another decade or so we could start to see irreversible change. For instance, the Amazon rainforest could collapse and become savannah, the oceans could become so acidic they can't absorb anymore carbon from the atmosphere. If that happens we are then on a runaway train."

He added: "Every nation, including the US, has to make cuts to greenhouse gases if we are going to save the planet."

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