British Pol Reaches Out on Climate Change

By Marc Perelman

Published June 13, 2007, issue of June 15, 2007.
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In a further indication of its willingness to challenge the Bush administration on its home turf, the British government of Tony Blair is pushing its advocacy to combat global warming by reaching out to state and local authorities, the business community and even religious groups in America.

While Blair has stuck with the White House position on Iraq despite Britain’s growing domestic opposition, he and the Bush administration have been at loggerheads over the debate on climate change. The British government has dispatched a variety of its senior members to talk to a variety of American audiences — including Jewish ones — about the need to enhance “energy security.”

“This is not a piece of tactic; we believe in what we say, and we have been clear on our differences with the administration for quite a while,” David Miliband, the British Environment secretary, told the Forward in an interview last week. “Climate change will not be solved by governments alone, so we need to reach out to businesspeople and communities in Britain and elsewhere.”

In addition to meetings at the Vatican and a speech at the New York Divinity School, Miliband previously launched a pro-environmental Web site sponsored by Britain’s Board of Deputies, the communal umbrella organization of Jews in the United Kingdom.

“Having all faith communities engaged on the issue has had a very positive impact in the U.K.,” said Miliband, a rising star in Britain’s Labor Party. “We’re certainly hoping to mobilize them here.”

One new approach, he said, is to couch the issue not merely as an environmental threat but also as a security challenge. By doing so, European governments are hoping to mobilize a wide variety of individuals and groups in support of ambitious policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — including influential Jewish groups primarily concerned about the fate of Israel.

While the Bush administration has made recent announcements to fight climate change, it has not committed the United States to specific targets to reduce emissions. It also has been reluctant to join a U.N.-sponsored negotiation process aimed at reaching a global agreement on mandatory cuts. “The administration removed important roadblocks, but we need more,” said Miliband, adding that China had also laid out a plan to reduce emissions as evidence of a growing consensus about the need to act.


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