Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Letter from the Prime Minister, Rt Hon Tony Blair MP (U45)

  Thank you for your letter of 15 December on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee's inquiry "Climate change: looking forward". This letter sets out, as requested, the main elements of No 10's engagement with the US on this issue.

  Climate change is a critical issue and, as you know, a major priority for this year's UK Presidency of the G8. I have made it plain that we will not be able to come up with an adequate global response to this challenge without engaging the US.

  The differences between ourselves and the US Administration over Kyoto are well known. However, as I say in my article in The Economist of 1 January, the US is taking some steps to address the issue: their spending on climate science and technology is impressive; many individual States are taking ambitious action; and, at a national level, other approaches are being considered such as the McCain-Lieberman Bill. I firmly believe there is scope for working more closely with the US on the international climate change agenda, both through the measures we intend to press for in the G8 Presidency, and also through the international framework, the UNFCCC.

  I covered some aspects of our relations with the US on climate change in my oral evidence to the Liaison Committee on 6 July 2004. I specifically addressed the issue in my latest speech on climate change, in September 2004, when I said:

    "We know there is disagreement with the US over this issue. In 1997 the US Senate voted 95-0 in favour of a resolution that stated it would refuse to ratify such a treaty. I doubt time has shifted the numbers very radically."

  But the US remains a signatory to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the US National Academy of Sciences agree that there is a link between human activity, carbon emissions and atmospheric warming. Recently the US Energy Secretary and Commercial Secretary jointly issued a report again accepting the potential damage to the planet through global warming.

  I also spoke on this subject when I addressed Congress in July 2003:

    " . . . we need to go beyond even Kyoto, and science and technology is the way. Climate change, deforestation, the voracious drain on natural resources cannot be ignored. Unchecked, these forces will hinder the economic development of the most vulnerable nations first and ultimately all nations. So we must show the world that we are willing to step up to these challenges around the world and in our own backyards . . . America must listen as well as lead"

  Climate change is a regular topic of discussion between myself and President Bush and was one of the subjects we covered during my most recent visit in November 2004. It is an issue that is often raised in other meetings I have with US interlocutors, such as the meeting you mention with Senator John McCain.

  Officials in my office work closely with Defra and other departments on climate change, and maintain regular contact with members of the US Administration, as well as with other US stakeholders.

  I look forward to hearing of the conclusions of the Committee's inquiry.

Rt Hon Tony Blair MP

January 2005

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