BEHIND THE HEADLINES: US stance on Kyoto treaty inflames opinions

The British government has found itself in a precarious position

with long-time ally the US over the Kyoto treaty breakdown.



Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's alleged public U-turn from his

tough stance on the US's decision to pull out of the climate change

protocol has this week reaffirmed theories that PM Tony Blair would

rather remain non-confrontational.



Since US President George W Bush announced his decision to abandon the

Kyoto treaty - designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions - Blair has been

thrown into a high-profile conflict of interest situation.



On one side, enraged environmental groups, public and politicians are

demanding the UK challenges Bush's controversial stand, while on the

other lies a delicate relationship with one of Britain's closest

allies.



In the media the Government is keen to be seen taking a tough public

line on Bush's rejection of Kyoto.



DETR spokesman Kevan McClaire said the PR priorities are to 'keep

underlining the Government's commitment to the treaty'.



'It's a case of making sure people understand what's at stake and that

we are at the frontline to push for an international agreement,' he

said.



Environmental groups are calling for the Government to be firmer with

the US. Friends of the Earth (FoE) - which has been avidly protesting

against Bush's climbdown on the UN climate change treaty - is asking the

Government to take a more critical line over the way the US is behaving

and to take a pro-European stance for independent action.



FoE media co-ordinator Ian Willmore said they are targeting the US

Government and anti-Kyoto oil firm Exxon Mobil (Esso in the UK) with

pressure tactics.



As a PR stunt, the group this week launched an e-mail protest against

Bush's stance designed to flood the White House with enough messages to

crash its server.



Meanwhile, Exxon is facing its hardest PR battle yet. With the public

and media overtly against Exxon's views that the treaty will not reduce

CO2 emissions, the firm has found itself acting as the lone voice in the

wilderness.



Speaking from Exxon's Texas HQ, spokesman Tom Cirigliano said: 'We

realise it's a long road to travel, but we're trying to stick to the

facts, stay unemotional about the issue and try to keep the issue

unpolitical. It's an uphill battle to get our message across.'



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