In a bold move (critics would say an "about-face," but it's not really), US President George W. Bush outlined his plan for reducing global carbon emissions. He urged 15 major countries to agree by the end of next year on a global emissions goal for reducing greenhouse gases.
He wants a series of meetings to begin this fall and to include countries such as China and India, as well as major European nations and the United States.
Some say this is a salvo designed and timed to get ahead of criticism the Bush administration was likely to receive at next week's Group of 8 (G8) Summit in Germany. Climate change is to be a leading topic on the agenda there.
But President Bush said, in announcing his plan, "The new initiative I'm outlining today will contribute to the important dialogue that will take place in Germany next week."
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair applauded President Bush's announcement on climate change as "a huge step forward," saying also that the true "significance of this is America accepting this is a real problem now, accepting it's got to offer real leadership on this issue and being prepared to be part of a global deal at the heart of which will be the reduction of emissions."
Environmentalists from World Wildlife Fund and liberal advocacy group Center for American Progress attacked Bush for "trying to leapfrog next week's summit" and push "aiming for 2008." In an extreme reaction, one critic claimed it was "morally unacceptable" for Bush to preempt the G8.
But according to people familiar with the situation, Bush has had not so much a conversion on the issue of climate change as his thinking has evolved. Bush himself said today in his remarks that "science has deepened our understanding of climate change and opened new possibilities for confronting it."
He went on to suggest that "the United States will work with other nations to establish a new framework on greenhouse gas emissions for when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012."
Let's hope the critics are wrong on this one and that the G8 meeting will be a productive next step, following on the heals of the President's proposal.
Read President Bush's full remarks to the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign