"At the Genoa G8 in 2001 – his first – we had a discussion on climate change. The Belgians at that time had the EU presidency, and so they were also at the G8 table. The then Belgian prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt, is a nice guy and bright, but very
. Brussels had been agreed and Bill Clinton had signed it, but the US Senate had voted 98–0 against ratification. On assuming office, George had flatly dissed the whole thing. [...] He said what he thought, which was that he wasn’t convinced, either by Kyoto or actually by the basic argument about the changing of the climate. He added that there was no way Kyoto America could possibly meet the targets without doing immense damage to its economy, and he was just not going to do that. Kyoto
After George had finished, Guy said he understood what George was saying, but really the American problem had a very simple solution, one that would be good for the world, but also immensely beneficial for the inner well-being of the American people: they could cut their emissions significantly if they doubled gasoline prices by raising the taxes on it. Such an action would be bold, it would help wean the American people off their obsession with the motor car, and earn George the high approval of international political opinion, not least in
George had arrived bang on time for this first discussion and had not fully said hello to all the participants. He didn’t know or recognise Guy, whose advice he listened to with considerable astonishment.
He then turned to me and whispered, ‘Who is this guy?’
‘He is the prime minister of
,’ I said. Belgium
?’ George said, clearly aghast at the possible full extent of his stupidity. ‘ Belgium is not part of the G8.’ Belgium
‘No,’ I said, ‘but he is here as the president of
‘You got the Belgians running
Europe?’ He shook his head, now aghast at our stupidity."