By Roger Harrabin
BBC environment analyst
Campaigners say prompt action is needed to counter global warming
A senior European official has described America's latest offer on climate change as far too little, far too late.
The US climate chief James Connaughton told the BBC that President Bush was ready this year to sign up to an international long-term goal of huge emissions cuts by 2050.
He said the US was also prepared to agree to internationally-binding medium-term goals for its own greenhouse gas emissions.
"America's helping lead the way among the major economies on the way forward after the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012," he said.
"Included in that is a commitment from the US to join in an international-binding agreement as long as the other major economies do too."
But European climate experts are angry that the White House still refuses to set a date for halting its growth in emissions.
James Connaughton says America is helping lead the way
One government official said: "This is nowhere near enough. The rest of the world only cares about tangible US emissions reductions. Until they come up with firm figures for reductions, the rest is meaningless."
Another EU official said there was nothing new in the American offer - but he said the US was becoming much smarter in its presentation of climate change policy, emphasising what it was prepared to do rather than what it would refuse to do.
On Wednesday, Mr Connaughton drew attention to the eight pieces of legislation enacted by the US to increase fuel efficiency across different sectors.
He said the US had offered billions of dollars of incentives towards clean technologies.
He also stressed that the US did not expect China and India to make cuts in emissions for the time being - but wanted them to agree legally-binding plans to restrict their growth in emissions. Without this, he said, cuts in the rich world would be futile.
He also referred to a consistent theme - the failure of the EU to match up to its own rhetoric on climate change.
The EU has pledged to cut CO2 by 20% to 30% in the next 12 years.
But the US says this is unrealistic and will certainly not be achieved on current trends.
One EU official said: "Frankly, we have had global climate policy held up by the White House for years. President Bush won't be in office to sign off the next climate agreement so we really no longer really care what he thinks."