The world's top producers of greenhouse gases pledged to cooperate to battle climate change Wednesday, but could not agree on numerical targets for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants behind global warming.
The U.S.-sponsored group of 16 countries and the European Union also threw their support behind the U.N.-led negotiations aimed at concluding a new global warming pact by the end of next year. The first phase of the current pact, the Kyoto Protocol, expires in 2012.
"The leaders of the world's major economies, both developed and developing, commit to combat climate change in accordance with common but differentiated responsibilities," said the statement, which followed nearly a year of consultations.
The fact that the group met as one and vowed to work together to reduce emissions "will give us greater confidence and commitments as we go to next year," said Jim Connaughton, chairman of President Bush's Council of Environmental Quality.
Environmentalists, however, deplored the statement as meaningless without any targets.
"This whole initiative has been a wild goose chase and hasn't brought anything constructive to the U.N. talks," said Antonio Hill, of the aid group Oxfam International.
Washington has been sponsoring talks in parallel to the broader U.N. negotiations. The members produce about 80 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, including the U.S., China and India. The first session of the group was in the United States in September.
The announcement came a day after the G-8 endorsed the goal of slashing world greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050.
Developing nations such as China and India, however, have criticized that statement for failing to state clearly what wealthy nations' commitments are, and that opposition was reflected in the lack of a long-term target in Wednesday's communique.
The administration of President George W. Bush has pushed the so-called Major Economies Meeting to group the countries most responsible for the greenhouse gases being emitted today.
Critics have attacked the grouping for excluding nations, such as small-island states, who will suffer most from the effects of global warming, such as rising sea levels.
"It lacks the most vulnerable countries, the most vulnerable people ... and they need to be around the table," said Kim Carstensen, director of the WWF Global Climate Initiative.