President George W Bush's plan to combat climate change got a cool reception in Europe on Friday where the European Union's environment chief dismissed it as unambitious and the "classic" US line.
Bush, under pressure to do more ahead of a summit in Germany next week of the Group of Eight industrial nations, said on Thursday that he would seek a deal among top emitters on long-term cuts in greenhouse gases by the end of 2008.
"The declaration by President Bush basically restates the US classic line on climate change no mandatory reductions, no carbon trading and vaguely expressed objectives," EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said, according to his spokeswoman.
"The US approach has proven to be ineffective in reducing emissions," Dimas said.
Bush called for a long-term deal on cuts among 15 top emitters led by the United States, China, Russia and India, a shift from an existing US policy lasting to 2012 that will allow US greenhouse gas emissions to rise.
German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said Bush's announcement could be seen as progress only if it prepared the way for a United Nations pact to extend the Kyoto Protocol past 2012.
"If it is an attempt to hamper such an international climate change agreement, then it is dangerous," he told reporters.
"The European Union and also the G8 should not be content with initiating a process that just means that we'll have some vague agreements between 10 or 15 countries in the world."
G8 DEFEAT FOR MERKEL?
Some newspapers portrayed Bush's plan as a defeat for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who wants the G8 to agree now on a need for world cuts of about 50 per cent in emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050.
"One of the customs at G8 summits is that the other participants grant the host a success on their big issue," the Financial Times Deutschland said in an editorial.
"The fact that Bush has not kept to this is an affront, and he's made Merkel's defeat even worse," it said. In Britain the Guardian said "Bush kills off hopes for G8 climate change plan".
Still, Merkel's spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said it was too early to predict the outcome of the G8. "I think we can say at this stage that it's going to be tough, that we face very intense discussions," he said.
UN reports this year have projected ever more heatwaves, floods, desertification and rising seas because of rising temperatures linked to greenhouse gases, mainly from fossil fuels. The EU aims to cut its emissions by 20 per cent by 2020.
Some leaders including British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's main ally in Iraq, welcomed Bush's climate shift.
"I want to see us now go further from what President Bush has laid out, but let's be clear that for the first time we have the possibility of the elements of a global deal, with America behind it, with a target for reduction in greenhouse gases," Blair said during a trip to South Africa.
Dimas himself noted that European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Merkel had emphasised that Bush's plan did at least create more chances for dialogue.
Bush said he wanted to convene the biggest polluting nations by the end of the year to explore ways of limiting emissions precisely what Merkel had hoped to do in Heiligendamm, to which she has invited non-G8 countries including China and India.
Thirty-five nations, including the EU, back the Kyoto Protocol which obliges an average cut in emissions of five percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.
Bush decided against implementing Kyoto in 2001, saying it would cost US jobs and wrongly excluded developing nations.
In China, a top-level meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao agreed that the impact of global warming on the country was getting clearer each day, but that climate change must be tackled in a way that allows economic growth.
China will release its first national plan to curb rising emissions next week, seeking to rebut international criticism that it is not doing enough to fight global warming.