LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California announced an agreement yesterday to bypass the Bush administration and work together to explore ways to fight global warming.
The two leaders announced the pact as they met with business leaders on clean energy and climate issues against the backdrop of a
Global warming is ``long-term, the single biggest issue we face," Blair said. Schwarzenegger added later in a statement that ``California will not wait for our federal government to take strong action on global warming."
The agreement calls for collaboration on research into cleaner-burning fuels and technologies, and looking into the possibility of setting up a system whereby polluters could buy and sell the right to emit greenhouse gases. The idea is to use market forces and market incentives to curb pollution.
Environmental groups questioned the value of the agreement, calling it little more than a symbolic gesture.
California is looking to cut carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that scientists say are warming the planet. President Bush has rejected the idea of ordering such cuts.
``This is an agreement to share ideas and information. It is not a treaty," said Schwarzenegger spokesman Adam Mendelsohn. ``Right now, all we are doing is talking about sharing ideas."
A Blair spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, in line with government policy, said, ``It will be markets, not governments, that will decide which technologies are chosen in the future. Governments can give clear, credible, long-term signals to the market which will enable companies to develop the technology that will result in cleaner technology, more energy efficient technology."
Kristen Hellmer, a spokeswoman for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the agreement was ``a wonderful amplification" of talks last year between the president and Blair.
For Schwarzenegger, a Republican running for a full term in November, the agreement comes at a time when he has been trying to distance himself from Bush in this mostly Democratic state.
His aides disputed speculation that the agreement was an attempt to sidestep the White House. In a conference call with reporters, state Environmental Secretary Linda Adams said the agency is in ``constant contact" with federal regulators, but added that there was no discussion with Washington about yesterday's agreement.
Craig Noble of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, said the pact had symbolic value, but ``the time for talk is over." He urged passage of a proposal, pending in the state Legislature, that would make California the first state to cap greenhouse gas emissions from industrial sources.
``The bottom line is, voluntary is not enough," Noble said.
That was echoed by the group Environment California, which said that unless a mandatory and enforceable cap on greenhouse-gas pollution is established, ``promises to do something about global warming are nothing more than a lot of hot air."
The world's only mandatory carbon dioxide trading program is in Europe. Created in conjunction with the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 international treaty that took effect last year, it caps the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted from power plants and factories in more than two dozen countries.
Although the United States is one of the few industrialized nations that have not signed the treaty, some Eastern states are developing a regional cap-and-trade program. And some US companies have volunteered to cap carbon dioxide pollution as part of a Chicago-based market.
A main target of the agreement between Britain and California is the carbon dioxide from cars, trucks, and other modes of transportation. Transportation accounts for an estimated 41 percent of California's greenhouse gas emissions and 28 percent of Britain's.
Schwarzenegger has called on California to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2010. California was the 12th-largest source of greenhouse gases in the world last year, bigger than most nations.
Blair has called on Britain to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 60 percent of its 1990 levels by 2050.
Bush has resisted Blair's efforts to make carbon dioxide reduction a top international priority. After taking office, Bush reversed a 2000 campaign pledge to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, then withdrew US support from the Kyoto treaty requiring industrialized nations to cut their greenhouse gases to below 1990 levels.
The United States is responsible for a quarter of the world's global warming pollution.
Bush administration officials argue that requiring cuts in greenhouse gases would cost the US economy 5 million jobs.