Blair and Schwarzenegger Sign Global Warming Pact

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The New York Sun

LOS ANGELES — Britain and California agreed yesterday to sidestep the Bush administration’s reluctance to tackle global warming by drawing up plans to act together to cut greenhouse gases.

Tony Blair and the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, announced they would explore the possibility of a new trans-Atlantic market in carbon dioxide emissions and other heat-trapping gases, which scientists blame for warming the planet.

California is undergoing a heat wave, with temperatures regularly above 100 degrees Fahrenheit this summer. Mr. Schwarzenegger, the movie actor turned Republican politician, has been promoting measures to tackle climate change in the “sunshine state.”

The Britain-California deal is the second domestic snub to President Bush by Mr. Blair, his closest ally on foreign affairs.

Mr. Blair has already sought to promote links between bioscience firms in California and Britain on stem-cell research, even though Mr. Bush is opposed to it on ethical and religious grounds.

Downing Street acknowledged there were “differences” between Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush over tackling climate change — though officials claimed that shared concerns about energy security were leading Britain and America in the same direction.

The deal to tackle carbon emissions was announced at a climate change event attended by chairman of British Petroleum, Lord Browne, and other business leaders.

Mr. Blair’s officials admitted that many of the details still had to be worked out and that European Union-wide agreement would be needed for an emissions trading scheme. But they denied it was a “p.r. stunt.”

The aim of an emissions trading scheme is to fix a price on carbon pollution, an unwanted byproduct of burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gasoline. The idea is to set overall caps for carbon and reward businesses that find a profitable way to minimize carbon emissions, thereby encouraging greener technologies.

The E.U. operates the world’s only mandatory carbon trading program. Created in conjunction with the Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 international treaty that took effect last year, it caps the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted from power plants and factories in 25 states.

Companies can trade rights to pollute directly with each other or through exchanges in Europe as long as the cap is met. Canada, one of more than 160 nations that signed the Kyoto treaty, plans a similar program.

Although America is one of the few industrialized nations that has not signed the treaty, some eastern American states are developing a regional cap-and-trade program. And some American companies have voluntarily agreed to cap their carbon pollution as part of a new Chicago-based market.

A main target of the agreement between Britain and California is the carbon from cars, trucks, and other modes of transportation.Transport accounts for an estimated 41% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions and 28% of Britain’s.

Mr. Schwarzenegger has called on California to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2010. California was the 12th largest source of greenhouse gases in the world last year.

Mr. Blair has called on Britain to reduce carbon emissions to 60% of its 1990 levels by 2050. Britain also has been looking at imposing individual limits on carbon pollution.

People who accumulate unused carbon allowances — for example, by driving less or switching to less polluting vehicles — could sell them to people who exceed their allowances — for example, by driving more.

After taking office, Mr. Bush reversed a 2000 campaign pledge to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, and then he withdrew American support from the Kyoto treaty requiring industrialized nations to cut their greenhouse gases to below 1990 levels.

America is responsible for a quarter of the world’s global warming pollution. Bush administration officials argue that requiring cuts in greenhouse gases would cost the American economy 5 million jobs. The administration has poured billions of dollars into research aimed at slowing the growth of most greenhouse gases while advocating a global cut on one of them, methane.

The New York Sun

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