Deputy PM Prescott attacks US record on climate change

The UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has taken a swipe at the US government for its record on tackling climate change in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans. Speaking in the German capital Berlin, Mr Prescott said climate change was to blame for rising sea levels and increased storm activity.

While expressing “compassion” for the US in the aftermath of Katrina, Mr Prescott said that President Bush’s administration had been “wrong” not to join Britain and other leading industrial nations in signing up to the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The US government has been reluctant to accept claims by some scientists that storms such as Katrina could become more common with increased global warming.

“I want to take this opportunity to express our solidarity and compassion after the havoc of Hurricane Katrina,” said Mr Prescott.

“As a European negotiator at the Kyoto climate change convention, I was fully aware that climate change is changing weather patterns and raising sea levels,” he added.

The deputy prime minister told the International Congress of the Council for European Urbanism that the floods in New Orleans highlighted the dangers global warming poses to island states such as the Maldives.

But while criticising the American government for failing to tackle climate change, Mr Prescott praised the example of US city mayors who had ignored their own federal administration’s position on Kyoto and taken local action to limit carbon emissions.

“The horrific flood of New Orleans brings home to us the concern of leaders of countries like the Maldives, whose nations are at risk of disappearing completely,” he said.

“On a recent visit to the United States, I was delighted to see that city mayors are taking their own environmental initiative on Kyoto.”