President Bush has proposed that the U.S. and other major industrialized nations join to set “a long-term global goal” by the end of 2008 for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases. But environmental groups criticized the announcement, contending that it is a call simply for more discussions, not concrete steps to reduce global warming

Bush said in a May 31 speech in Washington that the U.S. plans to hold meetings of countries that are large producers of greenhouse gases, including India and China. “It’s important to ensure that we get results, and so we will create a strong and transparent system for measuring each country’s performance,” he said.

Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, the senior Republican on the energy committee, said Bush’s proposal may be the sort of multilateral effort on global warming that Domenici has recommended launching. “While I support the collaborative nature of the effort envisioned by the President,” Domenici said, “the devil is in the details.” He added that one of his main concerns is “exactly how each nation would go about reducing emissions and enforce the agreement….”

Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, called Bush’s announcement “a transparent effort to divert attention from the President’s refusal to accept any emissions reductions proposals at next week’s G8 summit.”

Asked at a press briefing whether any greenhouse gas commitments by the various countries would be voluntary, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairman James Connaughton said, “The commitment at the international level will be to a long-term, aspirational goal.

“It’s the implementing mechanisms that become binding,” he added.