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Bush sets goal to stop greenhouse gas growth by 2025

Stopping short of specific proposals, Bush sets a national goal of halting greenhouse gas growth and called on other nations to do the same.

President Bush on Wednesday set a goal of halting the growth of greenhouse gases by 2025, calling for elimination of clean-energy international trade barriers but stopping short of specific proposals to mandate carbon emissions caps.

Delivering a speech at the White House Rose Garden, Bush said national greenhouse gas emissions growth should peak within 10 to 15 years, stop in 2025, and then decline.

President Bush speaks on climate change and clean energy at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference last month. Martin LaMonica/CNET
President Bush speaks on climate change and clean energy at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference last month. Martin LaMonica/CNET

He said the nationwide strategy would build on existing policies to accelerate development of energy-efficiency technologies, cellulosic ethanol, nuclear power, and renewable energy like wind and solar.

Bush said the U.S.--which has been accused of foot-dragging in global climate change talks--will agree to a binding international regime to limit emissions if other countries adhere to their own goals.

"This approach will require commitments by all major economies to slow, stop, and reduce (greenhouse gas) growth," he said.

In addition to weighing in on global climate regulations, which are set to expire in 2012, Bush also sought to influence the direction of various forms of climate change legislation now going through Congress.

Most of those focus on mandatory carbon emissions caps to restrain heavy polluters and a market-based mechanism of trading carbon allowances, called a cap and trade.

He also warned against attempts to force federal agencies to take action on regulating global warming emissions in place of the legislative process.

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court last year said that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must regulate carbon dioxide pollution from vehicles, although it has still resisted any action.

Here are excerpts from the text of the speech supplied to the media.

The wrong way is to unilaterally impose regulatory costs that put American businesses at a disadvantage with their competitors abroad, which would simply drive American jobs overseas and increase emissions there. The right way is to ensure that all major economies are bound to take action and to work cooperatively with our partners for a fair and effective international climate agreement.

Wednesday's speech at the Rose Garden follows another that Bush delivered at the U.S. government-sponsored Washington International Renewable Energy Conference last month where Bush made clear his desire to leave a legacy of accomplishments on climate change. Most observers do not expect any laws passed on climate change until Bush is out of office.

Initial reaction to the speech's text brought some negative comments from legislators and policy analysts who said it will not bring about significant changes to legislation now under discussion.

"President Bush's announcement will be soon forgotten,'' David Sandalow, an energy and global warming expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, told Bloomberg. "The most important decisions in the international global-warming negotiations will be made once President Bush leaves office."

John Cahill, who co-chairs the Climate Change practice at Chadbourne & Parke and who helped create the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in the northeast U.S., said that Bush's speech did not get the country closer to federal regulations.

"Unfortunately, nothing the President said today substantially reduces industry's deep problem of climate regulation uncertainty," Cahill said.

The president's plan hinged on rapid development of clean technology.

We must all recognize that in the long run, new technologies are the key to addressing climate change. But in the short run, they can be more expensive to operate. That is why I believe part of any solution means reforming today's complicated mix of incentives to make the commercialization and use of new, lower emission technologies more competitive.

First, the incentive should be carbon-weighted to make lower emission power sources less expensive relative to higher emissions sources, and it should take into account our Nation's energy security needs.

Second, the incentive should be technology-neutral because the government should not be picking winners and losers in this emerging market.

Third, the incentive should be long-lasting. It should provide a positive and reliable market signal not only for the investment in a technology, but also for the investments in domestic manufacturing capacity and infrastructure that will help lower costs and scale up availability.

During his speech, he warned against a "global carbon-based trade war."

The wrong way is to raise taxes, duplicate mandates, or demand sudden and drastic emissions cuts that have no chance of being realized and every chance of hurting our economy. The right way is to set realistic goals for reducing emissions consistent with advances in technology, while increasing our energy security and ensuring our economy can continue to prosper and grow.

Many large corporations have been calling for carbon-restraining regulations for a few years. The United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), for example, is seeking to influence policies many expect to come into force within a few years.

Update at 1:40 p.m. Pacific with comments from John Cahill