Britain’s foreign secretary said Thursday the next U.S president should quickly get involved in global negotiations to slow global warming, which she warned was fast becoming a crucial foreign policy issue.
“What I would like for the next administration to do is to engage fully in the international dialogue,” Margaret Beckett told a meeting of Wall Street bankers at New York’s Council on Foreign Relations.
President Bush, who leaves office in January 2009, withdrew the United States from the 163-nation Kyoto Protocol for curbing global warming early in his first term, saying the agreement would hurt the economy and unfairly exempt developing nations like China and India from emissions limits in the first round.
In July, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, one of Washington’s closest allies, bypassed the Bush administration and met with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to explore ways to link emissions trading between Britain and that state.
Many scientists say greenhouse gases from cars, power plants and the burning of forests may push up world temperatures by perhaps a further 3 degrees C (5 degrees F) by 2100, causing more droughts, floods, disease and rising global sea levels.
Beckett said global warming had already altered rainfall around the world, hitting crop yields and freshwater supplies. A shift in rainfall was a “major trigger for the tragic conflict in Darfur,” she said. If sea levels rose in Bangladesh, “this would be bound to raise tensions in an already volatile region.”
Beckett said it was unfortunate the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme had not been replicated in the United States. “That is not a European idea, that’s an American idea, we want more American ideas, more stimulus from America into this very important debate,” she told Reuters in an interview.
The EU trading plan is modeled loosely on a successful U.S. program to cut output of sulfur dioxide gases from coal plants that cause smog. The EU program put carbon dioxide emissions limits on 11,000 power plants and businesses. Some $8.2 billion in credits for the right to emit carbon traded in the first year of the plan in 2005.
She said the next round of the Kyoto Protocol, slated to start in 2012, could look very different from the current model in which 39 developed countries are required to cut emissions and developing countries have no limits.
“I’m very conscious indeed with genuine concerns … felt in the United States government and the … feeling that the way the Kyoto Protocol agreement was put together was not satisfactory. But my argument is if you don’t like the way the previous regime was shaped and you think it was full of flaws, then get involved with the next one, and the earlier the better.”