James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the United States is not against setting goals but prefers to focus them on specific sectors, such as reducing dependence on gasoline and cleaner coal. "The U.S. has different sets of targets," he said.
Germany, which holds the European Union and Group of 8 presidencies, is proposing a so-called "two-degree" target, whereby global temperatures would be allowed to increase no more than 2 degrees Celsius — the equivalent of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit — before being brought back down. Practically, experts have said that means a global reduction in emissions of 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
Connaughton, who is on a one-week bipartisan trip to Europe with members of the House of Representatives, said the U.S. favors "setting targets in the context of national circumstances."
But despite the disagreements, Connaughton said the G-8 meeting, which brings together the leaders of Germany, the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Japan, could still result in a productive conclusion.
"Let the G-8 process run its course," he said. "Give the leaders a chance."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who opposes President Bush on climate policy, urged international cooperation in tackling climate change.
Pelosi, on a separate trip to Berlin, hailed Chancellor Angela Merkel's "extraordinary leadership" in fighting climate change and agreed "that these solutions must be multilateral."
"We are trying to preserve the planet, which many in our country, including I, believe is God's creation, and we have a responsibility to preserve it," Pelosi said, speaking alongside the German leader after a meeting at the chancellery.
The California Democrat said faith-based organizations could play a role in battling climate change. The United States needed "the spirit of science to show us the way and faith-based organizations to help mobilize to preserve the planet," Pelosi said.
Merkel, who will host the summit of leaders from the G-8 in Heiligendamm, was diplomatic as she met with Pelosi and her bipartisan congressional delegation. The German leader said she was delighted there was "a bipartisan movement in the U.S. Congress that pays great importance to the issue of energy."
Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel has been more blunt, voicing regret after he met Pelosi on Monday at the difficulty of achieving "concrete results" with the Bush administration.
"I think that what we could achieve is at least a mandate for negotiations — a clear mandate — for the climate conference" later this year in Bali, Indonesia, which is set to consider future action against global warming, Gabriel told ARD television.
"The United States is rejecting that as well, so far," he said, but "if we could achieve that, then I think Heiligendamm would have achieved a breakthrough."
The U.S. has not ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol limiting emissions; President Clinton never submitted it to the Senate. President Bush, who has also declined to submit it for Senate confirmation, has argued that Kyoto would harm the U.S. economy and unfairly excludes developing countries such as China and India from obligations.
Pelosi has disagreed with that decision on Kyoto, but has said she wants to work with the Bush administration rather than provoke it. On the way to Europe, her delegation stopped in Greenland and saw the effects of global warming firsthand, she said.