Environmental groups accuse Tony Blair

Environmental groups on Monday accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of squandering his chance to take action on climate change during Britain's leadership of the European Union and G-8. The government's chief scientific adviser said the criticisms were "grossly unfair."

WWF U.K., formerly the Worldwide Fund for Nature, said Blair had produced fine words but little action during Britain's six-month turn at the EU helm, which ends Dec. 31. Greenpeace accused Blair's government of "making things worse, not better."

Earlier this year, Blair promised to use Britain's stints at the head of the EU and the G-8 group of industrial nations to try to make a "breakthrough" on climate change.

But the WWF accused the government of failing to combat German and U.S. attempts to weaken legislation on harmful chemicals and said Blair had "undermined the most central plank of climate change policy" with recent remarks about the Kyoto accord.

WWF director of campaigns Andrew Lee said Blair's negotiating position on environmental issues "becomes daily less discernible from that of U.S. President George W. Bush."

"It is becoming clear that all the talking up has been aimed more at trying to please environmentally concerned voters and green organizations than demonstrating the will to actually use leadership in tough negotiations," Lee said.

At a recent international meeting of energy and environment ministers in London, Blair said mandatory targets limiting pollution made people "very nervous and very worried" and were incompatible with economic success. He said a more sensitive framework for tackling global warming would be needed when the Kyoto agreement expires in 2012.

Bush, who has refused to sign up to the 1997 accord, has expressed similar views, saying the caps on greenhouse gas emissions it demands would damage the U.S. economy.

The WWF said a meeting in Montreal later this month on how to combat climate change after Kyoto expires represented a last chance for Blair to make a difference.

The British wing of the environmental group Greenpeace also said Blair's recent speeches had "begun to undermine the Kyoto agreement." The group, which on Monday dumped coal in front of Blair's Downing Street residence to protest his environmental policies, accused the government for overseeing an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, failing to curb coal-burning power stations and contemplating an expansion of nuclear power.

The government's chief scientific adviser, David King, said the criticisms were "grossly unfair."

"I think we achieved an enormous amount. We now have 12 states in the United States saying they wish to engage in emissions trading to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," King said, rpeorts the AP. I.L.

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