Determined Blair sits down with world leaders

Posted in Other | 07-Jul-05 | Author: Patrick Wintour, Larry Elliott Julian Borger and Ewen MacAski| Source: Guardian

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, right, speaks with French President Jacques Chirac, left, as British Prime Minister Tony Blair looks on during a meeting before a formal dinner at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, near Auchterarder, Scotland, Wednesday July 6 2005.
Tony Blair took personal charge last night of "intense negotiations" on Africa and climate change as talks at the Gleneagles summit entered their final, crucial phase.

As the leaders of the G8 flew in for a banquet with the Queen, British sources said an upbeat prime minister was leading the British team. He aimed to broker deals on aid, trade and global warming. "Things are quite intense and we haven't got there yet," one insider said.

I took a chance on this G8 choosing Africa and climate change", Mr Blair said last night in an interview with Channel 4 News.

"You couldn't choose two more difficult subjects but on the other hand what's the purpose of doing it unless you're going to try and take the difficult subjects and, even if you can't resolve them, make progress on them?"

Inside the ring of steel surrounding the conference venue, the UK delegation prepared for today's talks on climate change and the world economy, with trade and Africa due to be tackled tomorrow.

Jacques Chirac, France's president, was the last of the eight leaders to arrive last night, joining colleagues from the US, Canada, Italy, France, Germany and Japan.

Leaders from five emerging economies - China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa - as well as officials from the EU and UN were also at the summit.

Sources close to Mr Blair said that he was quietly confident that they would get further than appeared possible last week on climate change, with George Bush prepared to sign up to a post-Kyoto process that would involve the leading developing countries and also accepting that global warming was, to some extent, manmade.

But the celebrity campaigners Bono and Bob Geldof said there was still no agreement on aid, with the aim of boosting financial assistance by $50bn (£28.5bn) "hanging in the balance".

At the heart of the discussions on aid was the attempt to marry American demands that aid be allocated for specific projects with Britain's belief that local people should have the right to decide how best to use the money.

G8 sources said the communique would make explicit reference to good governance and include a condemnation of Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe.

Mr Blair said he was confident that France and the US, the two countries furthest apart on climate change, would accept the compromise.

He said: "People can agree that there is a problem, that human activity does contribute to global warming and we do need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

He said there was no point in isolating the US, as some environmental campaigners had urged.

Mr Blair wants a smaller group of the EU, the US and the big developing nations to discuss a post-Kyoto deal.

Asked if it mattered that the US took a more sceptical line about the science of climate change, he said: "You can get into a rather pointless exercise about words - the question is whether people recognise climate change is a problem and needs to be tackled."

En route to the summit yesterday morning, Mr Bush stepped up his campaign for the G8 countries to abandon the Kyoto agreement and to focus instead on developing cleaner technology.

Speaking in Denmark, he claimed that Kyoto "didn't work for the world", and he looked forward to "the post-Kyoto era, where we can work together to share technologies, to control greenhouse gases as best as possible".

Mr Bush restated his readiness to accept that climate change was happening, and that human greenhouse gas emissions were "contributing to the problem".

He said he "could not wait" to share the alternative US strategy to tackle global warming with the other G8 leaders, which he made clear would be built on technological solutions.

Mr Blair, however, denied he was trying to negotiate a new technology transfer fund at the G8, let alone new targets,

Stephen Hadley, the US national security adviser, suggested yesterday that differences remained between the US and its G8 partners over the scientific explanation for climate change.

"There's an issue about the science. Of course there's a lot that we don't know," he told journalists on the presidential plane, Air Force One.

Mr Hadley said a G8 joint statement on climate change should take the form of an action plan pledging progress on civil nuclear power, clean coal and hydrogen-powered technology.

He said the drive to curb emissions had to be balanced against the need for development, poverty alleviation and "affordable, secure energy".

The environmental group Greenpeace disputed that the proposed compromise at Gleneagles amounted to any real shift by Mr Bush.

Stephen Tindale, executive director of Greenpeace, said: "Blair seems to be falling for the White House's spin operation.

"Bush accepted back in 2001 that climate change is caused by human activity and that we have to develop new technologies."