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California and U.K. Sign Global Warming Agreement


Here in Los Angeles today, British Prime Minister Tony Blair will deliver a foreign policy address at the World Affairs Council. This is the first time a sitting prime minister of the United Kingdom has paid a visit to California. Yesterday, with great fanfare, Tony Blair and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an agreement to cooperate on the fight against global warming.

NPR's Ina Jaffe reports.

INA JAFFE reporting:

It's odd, perhaps, for a foreign country to sign an agreement with a single United State, but for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger it seemed like the most logical thing in the world.

Governor ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (Republican, California): California, after all, is like a nation-state. And when we act, the world takes notice, and it has a tremendous impact, and they follow.

JAFFE: Schwarzenegger and Blair were unveiling their agreement on Pier T at the Port of Long Beach. Their backdrop was a giant oil tanker owned by British company BP that's part of a new program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the Port. Blair said that when it came to fighting climate change, he and Schwarzenegger were on the same page.

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR (Great Britain): Sometimes this issue is always portrayed as Europe wants one thing, America wants another. Actually, what he is showing is that there is a tremendous amount of commitment and dedication to getting this issue resolved.

JAFFE: Yesterday's agreement was described as historic and groundbreaking, but it doesn't really require any specific actions. It calls instead for the exchange of information on technology and economics. What's important, said Schwarzenegger, is that global warming is no longer a subject for debate.

Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: Of course, there's always people that doubt it. There's people still that think that the world is flat. But I mean, I think that it is very clear to the scientists that I read their reports. I trust them.

JAFFE: Schwarzenegger stopped short of saying that President Bush was a member of the Flat Earth Society, but the governor and the prime minister were questioned repeatedly about the president's lack of action on this issue. Schwarzenegger, who is running for reelection, was happy to point out his differences with President Bush, who is extremely unpopular in California.

Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: Let's not wait for the federal government. Let us move forward. So this, what it is, it's like stem cell research. There's many issues like that where I feel that California should lead the way. And, you know, the White House is not for it, but we are for it.

JAFFE: It might not have hurt Tony Blair, either, to be seen as parting company with President Bush. In England, he's seen as much too compliant with Mr. Bush's foreign policy. Nothing about his recent visit to Washington convinced British reporters that's changed, as you can hear in this question about the ongoing violence in Israel and Lebanon from reporter Jon Craig of Sky News.

Mr. JON CRAIG (Reporter, Sky News): To what extent would you accept that part of the problem is that you are seen very much as President Bush's agent here and supporter, rather than an independent, honest broker? And given the setbacks that you've had, what do you think your personal efforts have achieved?

Mr. BLAIR: Well, I think the most important thing is to…

Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: Very positive people.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: It's amazing.

Mr. Blair: I…if we only…

(Soundbite of laughter)

JAFFE: After Schwarzenegger gave Blair a moment to collect his thoughts, the prime minister insisted that his efforts would ultimately bring about a cease-fire in the Middle East.

Mr. Blair: Everybody is in the position of wanting the violence and conflict to stop on both sides, but it's got to be done on a basis that deals with the underlying problem. So I will carry on working this as hard as I can.

JAFFE: Blair will likely elaborate later today in his speech at the World Affairs Council, most likely to an audience friendlier than many in his own country. The event sold out immediately, according to organizers - nearly 2,000 tickets going at 80 bucks a pop.

Ina Jaffe, NPR News, Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ina Jaffe is a veteran NPR correspondent covering the aging of America. Her stories on Morning Edition and All Things Considered have focused on older adults' involvement in politics and elections, dating and divorce, work and retirement, fashion and sports, as well as issues affecting long term care and end of life choices. In 2015, she was named one of the nation's top "Influencers in Aging" by PBS publication Next Avenue, which wrote "Jaffe has reinvented reporting on aging."