WASHINGTON – Revising his stand on global warming, President Bush on Wednesday called for a halt in the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and urged other major polluting nations to develop national goals to address climate change.
In a Rose Garden speech on global warming, Bush expressed concern that Congress might pass climate legislation that would hurt economic growth. Critics of his energy policy have argued that the Bush administration has dragged its feet in addressing the problem. But Bush argued that his staff was working intently to address the contentious issue about greenhouse gases believed responsible for the warming of the Earth.
While setting a broad goal, the president offered only a general outline -- and few specifics -- about how to achieve the objectives. Bush's proposal was quickly denounced by congressional Democrats and environmentalists as falling far short of what is needed to stabilize the concentration of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.
Bush said unilateral action by the United States, however, will not make a dent in fixing the problem.
"Like many other countries, America's national plan will be a comprehensive blend of market incentives and regulations to reduce emissions by encouraging clean and efficient energy technologies," Bush 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."
The president also called for putting the brakes on greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants within 10 years to 15 years.
"We're doing a lot to protect this environment. We've laid a solid foundation for further progress. While these measures will bring us a long way toward achieving our new goal, we've got to do more in the power-generation sector," the president said.
"To reach our 2025 goal, we will need to more rapidly slow the growth of power sector greenhouse gas emissions so that they peak within 10 to 15 years, and decline thereafter," he said. "By doing so, we will reduce emission levels in the power sector well below where they were projected to be when we first announced our climate strategy in 2002.
"There are a number of ways to achieve these reductions, but all responsible approaches depend on accelerating the development and deployment of new technologies," Bush added.
Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., who chairs a House committee on global warming, said the president's emissions goals were aimed at "freezing out real solutions to the threat of global warming" being considered by Congress.
Senate Democrats said the president's plan would allow continued growth of greenhouse gases for nearly two decades during which the government estimates U.S. heat-trapping emissions will grow. U.S. emissions from electric power plants alone are expected to grow by 16 percent.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, called Bush's new climate strategy "worse than doing nothing ... the height of irresponsibility."