President Bush
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KAI RYSSDAL: President Bush made a counter-offer of sorts today on the topic of global warming. The United States has largely been on the defensive about climate change, especially as it's been heating up as a political issue.

With the G-8 summit next week sure to bring more pressure, the president's proposing a new round of negotiations on cutting greenhouse gases. Sarah Gardner reports now from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, the president's last-minute change of heart is getting a few cheers, a couple of boo's, but mostly surprise.

SARAH GARDNER: President Bush has resisted calls to join a climate change agreement for years. Today, he startled many of his critics by unveiling his own plan to fight global warming.

PRESIDENT BUSH: By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term, global goal for reducing greenhouse gases. To help develop this goal, the United States will convene a series of meetings of nations that produce most greenhouse gas emissions — including nations with rapidly growing economies like India and China.

David Hayes, former Deputy Secretary of the Interior under President Clinton, says Bush is under enormous pressure to change his global warming stance. But his announcement today left it unclear whether he's ready to regulate greenhouse gases.

DAVID HAYES: What everyone's gonna be looking for is does this president agree that we have to have a cap as a constraint, or is he basically proposing aspirational goals? And if that is the case, I think there'll be a big yawn in the international community and certainly by U.S. businesses on this.

Bush's most vocal Senate critic, Barbara Boxer, said she was ready to work with Bush on his initiative. Environmental groups were less gracious. One called Bush's plan "a complete charade."

Phillip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, noted that Bush's remarks focused not on new regulation, but the promise of technology.

PHILLIP CLAPP: It's almost a little bit like saying to passengers on the Titanic, "What you have is a long-term technology problem."

If President Bush's last-minute proposal annoyed G-8 summit head Angela Merkel, the German chancellor didn't let on. But neither could she could she resist a little dig. Bush's announcement today made it clear, she noted, that "no one can avoid the question of global warming any more."

I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

Follow Sarah Gardner at @RadioGardner