President George Bush has set out his Clear Skies and Global Climate Change initiatives.

Announcing the two programmes, Bush said: “We will promote renewable energy production and clean coal technology, as well as nuclear power, which produces no greenhouse gas emissions.” Clear Skies aims to cut power plant emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and mercury by 70%. The Global Climate Change initiative – the US alternative to the Kyoto agreement on global warming – commits the USA to cut greenhouse gas “intensity” by 18% over the next 10 years.

Unlike the Kyoto agreement, which Bush rejected in March 2001, the new policy would be largely voluntary and incentive-driven, instead of implementing mandatory targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

Bush explained the US rejection of Kyoto: “The approach taken under the Kyoto protocol would have required the United States to make deep and immediate cuts in our economy to meet an arbitrary target. It would have cost our economy up to $400 billion and we would have lost 4.9 million jobs.” The US approach on global climate change links the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to the country’s economic growth rate. The initiative focuses on reducing greenhouse gas intensity – the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions to economic output. Bush said that this was the “commonsense way to measure progress,” adding that the USA must have economic growth: “Growth to create opportunity; growth to create a higher quality of life for our citizens. Growth is also what pays for investments in clean technologies, increased conservation, and energy efficiency. Meeting our commitment to reduce greenhouse gas intensity by 18% by the year 2012 will prevent over 500 million tonnes of greenhouse gases from going into the atmosphere over the course of the decade.” The Global Climate Change plan seeks to lower the country’s rate of emissions from an estimated 183 tonnes per million dollars of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2002, to 151 metric tonnes per million dollars of GDP in 2012. The Global Climate Change Policy Book states: “Reducing greenhouse gas intensity by 18% over the next ten years is comparable to the average progress that nations participating in the Kyoto Protocol are required to achieve.” This target would, according to Bush, “set America on a path to slow the growth of our greenhouse gas emissions and, as science justifies, to stop and then reverse the growth of emissions.” Reacting to the initiative, Marvin Fertel, senior vice president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, said: “The nuclear energy industry applauds president Bush for recognising the importance of nuclear energy – America’s largest source of electricity that does not pollute the air – in combating the threat of global climate change.”