Saturday, 5 August 2006

Blair defies Bush on cells and gases

The Times
August 02, 2006

LOS ANGELES: Tony Blair broke ranks with George W.Bush on Monday to announce agreements with the state of California to cut greenhouse gases and promote stem cell research, in defiance of White House policy. The British Prime Minister met California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to lay the groundwork for a new transAtlantic carbon trading system designed to encourage companies to reduce emissions.

Frustration with the US President's refusal to cut carbon emissions has driven Britain to risk the wrath of the White House and do business with the states on climate change. The deal with California, to be signed after a summit in Los Angeles, came after Mr Blair publicly defied the White House and called for extra investment in stem cell research.

Downing Street hopes the two new agreements will end criticism that Mr Blair is slavishly loyal to Mr Bush. The Prime Minister's spokesman even abandoned the usual loyal language used about the White House when discussing the two agreements.

Asked if Britain risked antagonising Mr Bush, he said: "It is important we can work with people who are like-minded and have the same perspective on things." Privately, Mr Blair is furious Mr Bush has refused to act on climate change.

The White House not only withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol but also has since tried to cast doubt on the science of global warming, saying it has not been proved that climate change is a man-made phenomenon. It is refusing to limit emissions.

Stem cell research is another major policy difference in the "special relationship" between the two nations. Mr Bush has used his veto to block federal funding for stem cell research on embryos. But at a meeting with the biotechnology industry in San Francisco, Mr Blair said the research was vital to advance medical science.

During the meeting with some of the biggest players in the industry, Mr Blair lauded Britain's liberal regulations, which permit almost everything except embryo cloning. He said Britain was a haven for scientists frustrated with the restrictions in the US, and urged them to work in Britain.