Outgoing US President George Bush's plans to cap CO2 emissions by 2025 have attracted scorn in Europe, where the proposed measures are seen as insufficient and overdue. But the US is also critical of 'rhetorical' CO2 commitments and favours clean tech development.
"Today, I'm announcing a new national goal: to stop the growth of US greenhouse gas emissions by 2025," US President George Bush said in a 16 April speech at the White House.
Better vehicle fuel efficiency standards, support for second-generation biofuels, efficiency criteria for appliances, renewable energy uptake and 'greener' building codes are all part of the US strategy, Bush said.
"These objectives are backed by a combination of new market-based regulations, new government incentives, and new funding for technology research," he added.
But the plans were widely criticised, notably by European delegates, during a 17-18 April meeting of major emitters in Paris. The meeting is being attended by delegates from the US, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, Japan, China, Canada, India, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Australia, Indonesia and South Africa.
"The president has made a disappointing speech that does not match up to the global challenge," said Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's Environment Minister, at a 17 April press conference in Paris. EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas also reacted critically, saying the plans "will not contribute to the effective tackling of climate change".
And Andrej Kranjc, environment secretary for Slovenia, which currently holds the rotating EU Presidency, expressed his "disappointment" with the 2025 target, which is widely seen as 'too little, too late' compared with the EU's commitment to slash GHG emissions by 20% by 2020.
The Bush administration is opposed to EU-style emissions reductions commitments. "Sudden and drastic emissions cuts that have no chance of being realised and every chance of hurting [the US] economy" should be avoided, Bush said.
The position was echoed by James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, at a press conference during the major emitters meeting. "We try to steer away from rhetorical commitments that have no prayer of being met," Connaughton said.
Despite the generally negative reception of Washington's 2025 targets, the US has also recieved praise for outpacing the EU in terms of spending levels in clean technology research and development.
The US is "way ahead of the curve" in clean tech development, said Yvo de Boer, who heads the UN's Climate Change Secretariat, during the Paris meeting.
Most observers do no expect major progress in the US towards a comprehensive CO2 cap-and-trade regime similar to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) until a new presidential administration is voted into office in 2009.