A United Call to Fight Warming

Prime Minister Tony Blair, at rear, set to leave office today, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger visit a London school partly solar-powered. Both noted the growing business opportunities for green technologies.
Prime Minister Tony Blair, at rear, set to leave office today, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger visit a London school partly solar-powered. Both noted the growing business opportunities for green technologies. (Pool Photo By Tom Hevezi)
By Mary Jordan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, June 27, 2007

LONDON, June 26 -- Tony Blair, in his last news conference as British prime minister, joined California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday in calling for world leaders to take action on climate change.

"We can show leadership," said Schwarzenegger (R), while praising Blair's policies.

In Europe, the governor's appeals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are seen as a sign of growing popular support in the United States to combat global warming, even if critics say the Bush administration has been reluctant to do so.

Last year, Schwarzenegger signed a law committing California to reducing its carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2020. He visited Blair after meeting Monday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has made global warming issues a priority.

Blair said he saw "growing popular will" around the world for individuals, businesses and governments to reduce their carbon footprint. He also rejected arguments that a choice must be made between economic growth and a reduction in emissions. "It is a false choice," Blair said.

Both he and Schwarzenegger noted the growing and lucrative business opportunities in Britain and California for environmentally friendly cars and other green technologies.

In a week in which Britain has suffered severe flooding that killed three people and forced the evacuation of thousands, Blair said recent "extraordinary weather variation" underlines the need for action.

Beverley Darkin, a climate change expert at Chatham House, a foreign policy research center in London, said that the Bush administration "is not seen as being a proactive player on climate change" but that Europeans are increasingly aware of "action taking place at the state level" in the United States, particularly in California. She said those who deal with the issue are engaging directly with U.S. states and businesses, bypassing Washington.

Blair is set to step down as prime minister Wednesday after 10 years in office. Following one last appearance at Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, he is to drive to Buckingham Palace and formally tender his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II.

Also Wednesday, according to U.S. officials, Blair is expected to accept a position as the new special envoy for the Quartet, the group that is overseeing the Middle East peace process.

Blair's new mission would be to mobilize international support for the Palestinians, help build their institutions of governance to entrench the rule of law, and work on economic development issues, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made. The Quartet is composed of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.

When asked about the envoy position during the news conference, Blair did not confirm reports of his imminent appointment but pledged to "do whatever I can to help" bring resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Those who favor the prime minister's appointment as a Middle East envoy point to his efforts to establish peace in Northern Ireland, one of his most notable achievements while in office. On Tuesday, the Irish government announced that it was pledging more than $10 million to endow a "Blair Chair" in Irish studies at the University of Liverpool in honor of Blair's "historic contribution."

Schwarzenegger said Blair was a "great, great diplomat" who would do well in the Middle East job, but added: "Out of selfish reasons, I hope that he becomes the envoy for the environment and brings all the countries of the world together" to reduce greenhouse gases.

Standing alongside the former movie star at 10 Downing Street, Blair borrowed a famous line from one of Schwarzenegger's "Terminator" films to end the news conference: "My press officer said to me, 'Whatever else you do this morning, don't say, 'I'll be back.' "

Correspondent Molly Moore in Paris and staff writer Robin Wright in Washington contributed to this report.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company