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LYNN NEARY, host:

Seventeen big countries produce the vast majority of emissions responsible for climate change. Diplomats from those countries meet today in Paris to talk about ways to help rein in those emissions. And they have a new climate goal from the United States to ponder. President Bush unveiled it yesterday as NPR's Richard Harris reports.

RICHARD HARRIS: Greenhouse gas emissions from the United States have been increasing at about one percent per year since about 1990. President Bush's new goal is to allow those emissions to keep increasing, but only for another 17 years, until 2025.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I've put our nation on a path to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of our greenhouse gas emissions.

HARRIS: Mr. Bush didn't put forth new policies that would achieve those far off goals, but he encouraged all the nations at the climate meeting in Paris to set their own national goals as well.

President BUSH: We recognize that different nations will design different strategies with goals and policies that reflect their unique energy resources and economic circumstances. But we can only make progress if their plans will make a real difference as well.

HARRIS: Scientists say global emissions need to be not just capped, but reduced sharply in the next few decades in order to stabilize the Earth's climate. So Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change says Mr. Bush's goal is a non-starter in the international arena.

Ms. EILEEN CLAUSSEN (President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change): If it gets any attention at all, it will be in the form of is this really a joke.

HARRIS: Claussen says there's no comparison with Europe's very ambitious goals to slash emissions by 2020.

Ms. CLAUSSEN: It's not even close to where Europe is. It's not even really where the Chinese or the major developing countries are. It's essentially saying, we, the United States, a developed country, are going to grow our emissions until 2025.

HARRIS: China has an ambitious five-year plan to start raining in the runway growth of its dirty coal-fired power plants. Europe and Japan are talking even tougher. But Jim Connaughton from the White House Council on Environmental Qualities says their actual emissions are still rising.

Mr. JIM CONNAUGHTON (Chairman of the Council on Environmental Qualities): The center piece of the president's vision and the president's action is setting realistic goals. The president is not focused on fancy rhetoric that doesn't lead to results.

HARRIS: Sure, other nations' stated goals are far more ambitious...

Mr. CONNAUGHTON: ...but nobody can explain to you how you get from here to there.

HARRIS: And here's the rub. Regardless of how realistic or unrealistic these goals are, the scientific consensus is that we need very deep emission cuts if we don't want the planet's temperature to rise to potentially dangerous levels in the coming decades.

Richard Harris, NPR News, Washington.

NEARY: You can read how President Bush's new climate initiative differs from the Kyoto Protocol that he's rejected at npr.org.

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