(CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush told a global climate change conference Friday that the United States will do its part to improve the environment by taking on greenhouse gas emissions.
U.S. President George W. Bush Friday tells a global climate change conference "we take this issue seriously."
"We take this issue seriously," he said at the Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change, which the White House sponsored.
In his address, Bush called on "all the world's largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions, including developed and developing nations," to come together and "set a long-term goal for reducing" greenhouse emissions.
"By setting this goal, we acknowledge there is a problem, and by setting this goal, we commit ourselves to doing something about it," he said. Watch Bush address the climate conference »
"By next summer, we will convene a meeting of heads of state to finalize the goal and other elements of this approach, including a strong and transparent system for measuring our progress toward meeting the goal we set. ... Only by doing the necessary work this year will it be possible to reach a global consensus at the U.N. in 2009."
Bush said it will be up to each nation to "design its own separate strategies for making progress toward achieving this long-term goal."
He said new technology, such as clean coal technology and biofuels, could help reduce greenhouse gases. He also called for more use of nuclear, wind and solar power.
"It was said that we faced a choice between protecting the environment and producing enough energy. Today we know better," the president said. "These challenges share a common solution: technology."
"We must lead the world to produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and we must do it in a way that does not undermine economic growth or prevent nations from delivering greater prosperity for their people," he said.
"We know this can be done," Bush said. "Last year, America grew our economy while also reducing greenhouse gases."
If the preliminary numbers stand, it would make 2006 the first time in Bush's presidency that greenhouse emissions dropped.
In prepared remarks this week, Assistant Secretary of Energy Karen Harbert said, "Preliminary data for 2006 suggests an absolute reduction in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions of 1.3 percent for that year despite economic growth of 2.9 percent."
In previous years, the administration also has said its policies were reducing greenhouse emissions, but Department of Energy figures through 2005 show emission figures went up each year.
The administration also said during those years it was reducing "greenhouse emissions intensity," a term referring to the ratio between emissions and the size of the economy. The administration said the economy was growing at a faster rate than the emissions themselves.
While the White House has taken heat for its environmental policies -- including from some Republicans such as Sen. John McCain -- Bush said at the conference Friday, "By working together, we will set wise and effective policies."
He added, "I want to get the job done. We have identified a problem -- let's go solve it together."
Other nations have been critical of the Bush administration's policy on climate change after the United States withdrew from the 1997 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as the Kyoto Protocol.
That protocol, which was signed by more than 150 countries, called on industrialized nations to cut greenhouse emissions in absolute terms. It did not make that demand of developing nations. The protocol expires in 2012.
Representatives of 16 countries, the United Nations and the European Union are attending this week's two-day conference. The Bush administration has billed it as an initiative to develop a common approach to combat global warming following Kyoto's collapse.
At a Group of Eight conference in June, Bush pushed for a new framework on global gas emissions to counter the effects of global warming.
Bush said he believes every nation should set its own goals. The president expressed concern that setting strict targets would damage the U.S. economy. Instead, he said, industries should enact voluntary measures.
On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also told delegates to the global climate change conference that countries around the world must work together to combat climate change, much as they cooperate against terror and the spread of disease.
"No one nation, no matter how much power or political will it possesses, can succeed alone," she said. "We all need partners, and we all need to work in concert."
Rice said the United States takes climate change seriously, "for we are both a major economy and a major emitter."
In her address to the Major Economies Meeting, Rice said an integrated response, including "environmental stewardship, economic growth, energy supply and security and development and the development and deployment of new clean energy technology," is the key to moving forward on the issue. E-mail to a friend
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