Washington : US President George W. Bush said the United States might agree to a broad international goal for cutting greenhouse gas emissions if energy-hungry nations like India and China join in the commitment.
Unveiling an initiative on global warming he will bring to next week's Group of Eight (G8) summit in Germany, Bush proposed Thursday that the US host talks with other major air polluters.
"My proposal is this: By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases," said Bush.
However, US officials Thursday made plain that Washington still rejects any international effort to impose mandatory emissions cuts and set up global emissions trading, such as the Kyoto pact.
What Bush has in mind is an aspiration that leaves each country free to choose its policies for fighting global warming, said Jim Connaughton, Bush's top environmental policy aide.
The plan would bring together 10 to 15 countries responsible for more than 80 per cent of the world's energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, including the US and nations with rapidly growing economies like India, China and Brazil, Connaughton told reporters.
However, the proposal stops short of more specific goals, backed by the European Union, Japan and Canada, that the US administration has fought to keep out of the G8's joint statement on global warming.
The European Union has gone the farthest in calling for new binding international benchmarks to combat global warming after the Kyoto Protocol runs out in 2012. The US has refused to join that UN treaty.
"This is a transparent effort to divert attention from the president's refusal to accept any emissions reductions proposals at next week's G8 summit," said Philip Clapp, head of the National Environment Trust, a Washington-based environmental group.
Officials from the eight rich nations have haggled for weeks after the US objected to parts of the statement on global warming to be issued by the leaders of the United States, Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Russia.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the summit host, has put climate change high on the agenda of the June 6 to 8 meeting and has staked its success on a call for joint action backed by the US.
Merkel, who has insisted on multilateral agreements to curb warming, called Bush's speech an important step on the road to the G8 summit.
One apparent aim of Bush's plan is to put a US footprint on the global warming debate as nations gear up to discuss how to curb emissions after the Kyoto pact expires.
"The United States will work with other nations to establish a new framework on greenhouse gas emissions for when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012," Bush said.
Bush's plan, which sets no timeframe or percentage goals for emissions cuts, is as far as the US is willing to go in the G8's 22-page draft statement on climate change and energy, Connaughton said.
"We've had some disagreement over a few issues, but this will actually bring closure on the core of what we can agree on," he added.
Bush renewed his argument that advances in technology, not globe-spanning regulation, are the key to fighting global warming.
"We need to harness the power of technology to help nations meet their growing energy needs while protecting the environment and addressing the challenge of global climate change," said Bush.