President George W Bush has again rejected any international regime that exempts fast-growing India and China from binding emission targets, saying he would not take unilateral action that imperils US industry and jobs.
The US supports a post-Kyoto regime that encompasses every major economy "and gives none a free ride," he said in an address on Wednesday on the eve of a meeting of the world's major emitters in France on Thursday and Friday.
Ministers from 16 economies that together account for 80 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions are gathering in Paris for the "Major Economies Meeting," the third in a series launched last September by Bush.
"Countries like China and India are experiencing rapid economic growth- and that's good for their people and it's good for the world," he said. "This also means that they are emitting increasingly large quantities of greenhouse gases, which has consequences for the entire global climate."
Bush said he had rejected the binding commitments of the Kyoto Protocol expiring in 2012, as its impact "would have been to limit our economic growth and to shift American jobs to other countries while allowing major developing nations to increase their emissions."
Announcing a new national goal to stop the growth of US greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 through voluntary action rather than mandatory cuts, he said: "We're willing to include this plan in a binding international agreement, so long as our fellow major economies are prepared to include their plans in such an agreement."
Defending the Bush approach, James Connaughton, chairman of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality, said the president was focused on realistic goals rather than "fancy rhetoric".
For instance, the US had just reached a new international agreement - including China and India - to more rapidly phase those out HCFCs (hydroflurocarbons) refrigerants and would put it into US law very soon, he said.
Asked how much influence Bush was going to have on the debate on climate change in the last year of his presidency, Connaughton said he had brought together internationally the 17 largest economies to discuss a post-Kyoto regime.
Bush had also "led the way on this new international agreement to phase out HCFCs, which will reduce emissions by as much or more than the Kyoto Protocol-and that's an agreement that had China and India on it," he emphasised.
Asked if the intention behind setting up a national goal now was to let the next President pick up from where he leaves, White House press secretary Dana Perino recalled that Bush had announced his plans to start a post-Kyoto conversation back in May, 2007.
"And he said, 'I will lead this effort, and I will lead it in a way that keeps China and India at the table, which is critical for having the political consensus, for everyone to have the will to actually move forward and get this done. Otherwise it is going to fall apart.'"
"You need to look back at the September 2007 statement because through the major economies meeting process, in order to keep this process on track, and by having China and India at the table, that's how you do that," Perino said in defence of a non-binding goal set by Bush.
"We will be able to collectively agree on a goal that all of us will be held accountable by under the United Nations framework," she said.
The Bush plan not only did not detail any new legal mandates on industry to bring down emissions, but also warned Congress against passing new legislation that might "impose tremendous costs on our economy and American families".
Accusing Bush of doing too little, too late, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, said he had flunked the climate change challenge in his final year in office.
Bush should back efforts in Congress to "cap and trade" greenhouse gas emissions, along with individual efforts of states like California that his administration has fought in the courts, she said.