Straw urges US to join global warming fight
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw reiterated that Britain reckoned that global climate change, largely blamed on emissions from burning oil, gas and coal, was "the most important long-term issue which we face as a global community".
"I know that Europe and the U.S. have not taken identical approaches to this challenge," he said in a speech at Howard University in Washington on Thursday night.
"But, as a friend of the United States, I hope you will allow me to argue that urgent international action is needed. It is critically important that we address the issue of climate change now, and together," he said.
Britain and other European Union nations are among the main supporters of the U.N.'s stalled 1997 Kyoto protocol, meant to limit emissions of gases like carbon dioxide that are blamed for blanketing the planet and pushing up temperatures.
Bush pulled out of Kyoto in 2001, arguing it was too costly and wrongly excluded developing nations. Kyoto cannot now enter into effect unless Russia, which says it is undecided, signs up.
But Straw said it was wrong to argue that curbs on emissions - from cars, factories and power plants - would inevitably put a brake on economic growth.
"I do not believe that such a trade-off exists. Between 1990 and 2002, we in Britain cut our emissions by about 15 percent, whilst growing at over 30 percent," he said. And he said costs of climate change could be enormous.
Straw noted that the 10 hottest years on record were all since 1990. A barrier in the Thames River near London had to be raised six or seven times a year, double the rate in the 1980s, to avert flooding that could cause $60 billion (34 billion pounds) in damage.
In the United States, he said that increases in droughts, fires and storms were already showing the effects of climate change.
Bush has stressed energy efficiency rather than Kyoto's emissions curbs. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, however, has said he wants the United States to "re-engage in the development of an international climate change strategy".
Kyoto needs backing from countries accounting for 55 percent of industrial nations' emissions in order to enter into force. It has reached 44 percent and needs Russia's 17 percent after excluding the United States' 36 percent.