Bush, Blair Agree to Lift African Debt, Discuss Global Warming

WASHINGTON, DC, June 7, 2005 (ENS) - President George W. Bush welcomed British Prime Minister Tony Blair to the White House today for talks ahead of next month's meeting of the Group of Eight (G8) countries in Scotland. The two leaders agreed to discuss doing more to limit climate change and to alleviate poverty and hunger in Africa, Blair's top two priorities for the upcoming meeting of the world's richest nations.

On Africa, President Bush said the United States provides one-quarter of all foreign aid that goes to the continent. He announced that the United States will provide another $674 million in response to current humanitarian emergencies in Africa, about $414 million of which will be spent to feed hungry people in the Horn of Africa where famine has been caused by long-term drought.

"We also agree," Bush said, "that highly indebted developing countries that are on the path to reform should not be burdened by mountains of debt. Our countries are developing a proposal for the G8 that will eliminate a hundred percent of that debt, and that, by providing additional resources, will preserve the financial integrity of the World Bank and the African Development Bank."

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British Prime Minister Tony Blair (left) and President George W. Bush at a press conference today. (Photo by Paul Morse courtesy The White House)
Prime Minister Blair said he hopes to conclude a debt elimination deal at the G8 finance ministers' meeting this weekend. He said it will involve a 100 percent debt cancellation and also the commitment of the additional funding to make sure that the financial institutions are not penalized as a result.

Both leaders emphasized that aid to Africa is, as Blair said, "not a something-for-nothing deal." Help will only be given to countries that are prepared to extend democracy, freedom and good governance to their people and avoid corruption, the leaders said.

While financial resources are necessary, said Blair, "it's not just about resources."

"It's also about debt; it's about trade; it's about making sure that we deal with these diseases - HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB, polio - that are killing so many people," he said. "It's about conflict resolution and having the proper peacekeeping and peace enforcement mechanisms."

On climate change, Blair acknowledged that the United Kingdom, which signed the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gases, and the United States, which did not sign, view the issue from different angles.

"I think everyone knows there are different perspectives on this issue," said Blair. "But I also think that it's increasingly obvious, whatever perspective people have and whatever - from whatever angle they come at this issue, there is a common commitment and desire to tackle the challenges of climate change, of energy security and energy supply. And we need to make sure that we do that. And again, I hope over the coming weeks we will work closely on this."

Bush said he will work with Blair, "to improve public health by cutting air - public air pollution and to address global change - subjects which I look forward to discussing at the G8, Mr. Prime Minister."

Saying that the United States spends more on climate change research than any other country, Bush emphasized that for national security reasons the country is seeking to "diversify away from a hydrocarbon society."

"And it's beginning to happen here," said Bush. "We'll have more fuel cells - cars driven by fuel cells - on the road next year than we had the past year, and more after that. We're beginning to change. Technology is changing how we can approach energy, and the technology - mating technology and energy independence from hydrocarbon also will produce a cleaner environment."

Gleneagles

The G8 countries will meet July 6 to 8 at the Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire, Scotland. (Photo courtesy G8 Summit)
Bush said his administration is "spending a lot of money on clean coal technology" that will be important to the United States and to China, and says he "will figure out how to share that technology with developing nations." He emphasized the contribution of biodiesel, a fuel made from soybeans, to replacing fossil fuels.

Bush reiterated his support for nuclear energy. "I strongly believe," he said, "that the world needs to share technologies on nuclear power. I don't see how you can be - diversify away from hydrocarbons unless you use clean nuke. And so we need to work together on developing technologies that will not only ensure people that nuclear power will be safe, but that we can dispose of it in a safe way."

President Bush did not, as he has in the past, cast doubt on the existence of global warming.

To ensure that the world leaders, including Bush, would not ignore climate change, today the U.S. National Academy of Sciences joined 10 other national science academies in calling on world leaders, particularly those of the G8 countries meeting next month in Scotland, to acknowledge that the threat of climate change is clear and increasing, to address its causes, and to prepare for its consequences.

The national academies of Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States signed the declaration. They include all the G8 countries plus Brazil, China and India, the three largest developing nations.

"Sufficient scientific understanding of climate change exists for all nations to identify cost-effective steps that can be taken now to contribute to substantial and long-term reductions in net global greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming," the academies said.

"There will always be uncertainty in understanding a system as complex as the world’s climate," the academies stated. "However there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring. The evidence comes from direct measurements of rising surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures and from phenomena such as increases in average global sea levels, retreating glaciers, and changes to many physical and biological systems."

"It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities," they stated. "This warming has already led to changes in the Earth's climate."

The full text of the Joint science academies’ statement: "Global response to climate change," is published in a separate opinion piece by the Environment News Service today. To read it, click here.