President Bush says the United States will strive to stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports the pledge came as representatives of 17 countries headed to Paris for talks on climate change.
President Bush says the United States is already on a path to reduce the growth of greenhouse gases by 2012. He says it is time to set an even more ambitious target.
"We have shown that we can slow emissions growth," he said. "Today I am announcing a new national goal: to stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025."
He says the goal can be met through a mix of incentives and development of new, cleaner energy technology. He says power plants must lead the way.
"To reach our 2025 goal, we will need to more rapidly slow the growth of power sector greenhouse gas emissions so they peak within 10 to 15 years and decline thereafter," said Mr. Bush.
In a speech from the White House, the president did not offer a detailed formula to cut dangerous emissions, which scientists say trap heat from the sun leading to gradually rising temperatures on Earth. He said a specific plan of action to meet the new targets will need to be worked out in consultation with the U.S. Congress and private industry.
Negotiations with U.S. lawmakers are likely to be tough. Congress is leaning toward mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions, an approach the president rejects.
"Bad legislation would impose tremendous cost on our economy and on American families without accomplishing the important climate change goals we share," he said.
White House officials defend the decision to revise the administration's climate change policy with only eight months to go in Mr. Bush's term. They note Congress is about to start work on new legislation dealing with the environment. And they stress the 17 leading industrialized countries taking part in the Paris negotiations this week hope to have an agreement by the end of next year, meaning the groundwork must be laid now.
The president's proposals fall far below European goals to reduce emissions.
And environmental activists say the position taken by the president amounts to too little, too late. Senator Barbara Boxer, the Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, calls his approach the height of irresponsibility.
But Mr. Bush defends it as realistic.
"If we fully implement our strong laws, adhere to the principles I've outlined, and adopt appropriate incentives, we will put America on an ambitious new track for greenhouse gas reductions," he said.
The president warns climate change is a global problem, and U.S. action alone is not enough. He says other countries must come up with their own goals for cutting greenhouse gases.
The Paris talks on Thursday and Friday will address possible steps to protect the planet after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
The United States is the only major industrialized country that did not ratify the protocol, although it emits more greenhouse gases than any other country.