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UK Signs Gore to Sell Climate Case in US
Published on Monday, October 30, 2006 by the Guardian / UK
UK Signs Gore to Sell Climate Case in US
Washington sceptical as landmark report warns of economic disaster
by James Randerson and Tania Branigan

Britain is to send the author of today's landmark review on global warming to try to win American hearts and minds to the urgent cause of cutting carbon emissions - as it emerged yesterday that the government has already signed up former US vice-president Al Gore to advise on the environment.

Sir Nicholas Stern, who this morning publishes an authoritative report on climate change warning that inaction could cause a worldwide recession as damaging as the Depression of the 1930s, will lobby politicians and business people in America at the turn of the year.

In a separate development, the environment secretary, David Miliband, said the government was discussing imposing green taxes. But the Treasury, which commissioned Sir Nicholas's study, stressed: "The key message of Stern is that international action is required ... The chancellor decides on taxes and he will do so in the pre-budget report and budget."

The government hopes the review will gain traction in the US because it focuses on the economic case for change. Sir Nicholas's analysis warns that doing nothing about climate change will cost the global economy between 5% and 20% of GDP, while reducing emissions now would cost 1%, equivalent to £184bn.

He argues that international negotiations to find a successor to the Kyoto protocol on reducing greenhouse gases must be accelerated, starting at UN talks in Nairobi next month.

The prime minister has said any such agreement needs the support of the US, which refused to join Kyoto because it said it would harm the economy. The White House said last night that it had not read the report. But Kristin Hellmer, the White House counsel on environmental quality, said: "The president has said from the beginning that climate change is a serious issue, and he is taking action on it."

She disputed charges from scientists that the administration had been hostile to the concept of global warming, and that it had set back international efforts to limit greenhouse gases by rejecting the Kyoto treaty.

Alden Meyer, director of policy and strategy with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a US group, suggested the only prospect for a policy shift before the next presidential election in 2008 would be if a delegation from the vast majority of US business - including the coal, utilities and car manufacturing industries - lobbied the White House for action. But he added of today's review: "It is a benchmark in a long process that is going to continue after the release."

Jonathan Porritt, director of the government's independent watchdog, the Sustainable Development Commission, added: "I think it is on a par with the influence of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the way in which the scientific evidence that they have marshalled has bit by bit obliged politicians to get into a much more pro-action stance on climate change."

Hopes of a political consensus on green taxes were raised yesterday as David Cameron, the Tory leader, told the BBC he would be prepared to impose taxes on aviation. His remarks followed the publication of a leaked memo from Mr Miliband urging Mr Brown to consider tough levies on flights, motoring and inefficient household appliances.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2006


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