Bush said that any attempt to reduce greenhouse gases must not hit global economies.
 
"Our guiding principle is clear. 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," Bush said.
 
European countries remain wary of any US attempt to turn the Washington initiative into a narrow alternative to the UN process, which is more demanding in the limits it sets on emissions.
 
Meeting proposed
 
Bush said the US, the world's leading economy and also its top polluter, took global warming seriously.
 
He promised it would set "a long-term goal for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions," without elaborating.
 
Ban has urged nations to reach an agreement
at a forthcoming climate conferene [AFP]
The US president also said he hoped to call a meeting of heads of state on climate change by the middle of next year.
 
"By setting this goal, we acknowledge that there is a problem and by setting this goal, we commit ourselves to doing something about it. By next summer, we will complete a meeting of heads of state to finalise the goal."
 
He also proposed setting up a fund to help developing nations move towards clean energy technologies, with payments sourced from governments around the world.
 
"We must also work to make these technologies more widely available, especially in the developing world," Bush told the conference.
 
Bush's speech is unlikely to have comforted critics who believe the US is making little effort to limit its greenhouse gas emissions.
 
Bush says the Kyoto protocol unfairly targets the economies of rich nations like the US while excluding poorer countries like China and India from obligations.
 
Problem worsening
 
Bush's address at the Washington climate conference comes days after Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told a UN meeting that climate change was accelerating.
 
UN officials are now looking towards key talks taking place under the UN in Bali, Indonesia, in December on how to increase emissions cuts when the Kyoto Protocol commitments expire in 2012.
 
At the UN meeting, Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, tried to build support among 80 world leaders for reaching agreement at the talks in Bali.
 
The 16 nations gathered in Washington for the two-day conference are Australia, Britain, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and the United States.
 
Together the countries at Bush's conference account for about 80 per cent of global emissions, according to US figures.