updated 11/28/2007 4:56:11 PM ET 2007-11-28T21:56:11

U.S. officials, preparing for a United Nations climate conference, said Wednesday they plan to push for a framework on further negotiations and will make no commitment for specific reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

President Bush, meanwhile, sought to deflect criticism that the United States is not doing enough to reduce greenhouse gases as he announced a final Energy Department report that showed U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas, declined by 1.5 percent last year while the economy grew.

“Energy security and climate change are two of the important challenges of our time. The United States takes these challenges seriously,” Bush said in a statement. “This puts us well ahead of the goal I set in 2002.”

Many environmentalists dismissed the 2006 carbon dioxide reductions when preliminary numbers showing a 1.3 percent decline were released last May, as having little to do with U.S. climate policy. The Energy Department’s statistical agency, which developed the numbers, acknowledged the decline was largely the result of a warm winter and cooler than normal summer that reduced demand for fossil fuel in 2006.

Senior administration officials, briefing several reporters on expectation of the two-week climate conference next week in Bali, Indonesia, said they hope the conference will lead to a “roadmap” for further negotiations in which all countries will address climate change.

“We would like to see a consensus on the launch of negotiations,” said Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky, who will head the U.S. delegation to Bali.

“We want a framework that is global in nature so that it can be environmentally effective and economically sustainable,” said Dobriansky. She said the United States is seeking “concrete and tangible ways” to move toward further negotiations with global participation.

Alan Price, deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, said the United States saw the Bali conference as agreeing on a roadmap “and not for countries to state what the end of the negotiations might be.”

The 13th Conference of the Parties of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, is to discuss the steps to be taken after 2012 to combat global warming when the 1997 Kyoto mandates expire.

The Bush administration has been adamant in opposing mandatory commitments for greenhouse gas emissions by the United States unless similar commitments are made by developing countries, especially China, and that the actions do not severely harm the economy. China soon is expected to surpass the United States as the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases, linked to global warming, as it presses ahead with economic expansion and use of fossil energy, especially coal.

James Connaughton, chairman of the president’s Council on Environmental Quality, said the Bali negotiations are expected to lead to further talks in 2009 on more specific actions to be taken. “We don’t expect a decision on those (actions) in Bali,” said Connaughton.

The Bali conference comes as Congress is beginning to closely examine legislation that calls for mandatory limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Many members of Congress — both Democrats and Republicans — have said it’s time to cap U.S. carbon emissions, although lawmakers disagree on how to go about it and how to avoid excessive costs of such limits.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who will attend the Bali conference, has scheduled a vote on a global warming bill, requiring emission reductions of 70 percent by mid-century, for next week. She hoped to show that, despite White House insistence on voluntary measures, there is sentiment in Washington for stronger action.

Asked about the legislation, Connaughton said, “We don’t speculate on pending legislation.”

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