WASHINGTON – President Bush, preparing for a round of meetings with European allies next week, is putting the final touches on a new global-warming agreement focused largely on voluntary measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and other sources.
"There's no question that the temperature of the Earth has been rising," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Tuesday. "The president agrees action has to be taken to fight global warming."
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice informally chaired a Cabinet meeting Tuesday attended by both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. The administration formed a Cabinet-level task force on global warming about two weeks after Bush in March reversed his campaign promise to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
Cheney is on the panel, as are the heads of several agencies, including the Energy Department, the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.
There was no discussion of mandatory measures, a senior administration official said.
When he meets with European Union leaders in Gothenburg, Sweden, on June 14-15, Bush hopes to have in hand an alternative to the 1997 Kyoto global-warming agreement that he denounced in March, the official said.
In a sign of how close Bush is to making an announcement, the lengthy White House meeting dealt mostly with how to explain and promote the alternative plan to the American public and skeptical allies, according to the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. He said Bush and his advisers were close to a consensus.
The plan probably will be based on assumptions that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases can be reduced through improved plant equipment and preserving farm and forest areas that absorb the gases. It also could include a trading system in which one industry or company that exceeds emission standards could buy pollution "credits" from another with far less emissions.
Some of Bush's foreign policy advisers, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, have argued for more than voluntary controls on carbon dioxide as an opening position with the Europeans, an administration official said.
The Europeans and Japan have called for mandatory controls on heat-trapping greenhouse gases that scientists say causes global warming.
The treaty negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, calls on industrial nations to cut heat-trapping emissions to below 1990 levels by 2012. Bush sparked an international outcry when he said on March 28 that it was unworkable and discriminates against the United States.
Cheney and his staff met earlier Tuesday with representatives of four environmental groups to discuss climate change and the administration's related energy plan.
"They said they weren't ruling out options," said David Hawkins, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate Center. "What to do about CO2 is exactly what they're considering in their climate policy."