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Representatives from 17 nations pledged to take action against climate change at a US-convened meeting in Washington, United States, last week (27-28 September). But the Bush administration has faced criticism after failing to commit to any binding emission targets.

Bringing together the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters from both industrialised and developing countries, including China and India, the climate talks were the first of a series to be convened by the United States.

US President George Bush emphasised the importance of cleaner technologies, saying they would "enable us to grow our economies and protect the environment". He proposed the creation of an international fund to promote technology transfer to developing countries.

The meeting produced no binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"[The meeting] hasn't produced anything in terms of serious response from the United States government to the magnitude of the problem," Saleem Huq of the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development, told SciDev.Net.

Many saw the conference as a diversion from the UN climate talks held in New York, last Monday (25 September), which President Bush did not take part in. The 80 heads of state in attendance called for a 50–80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Further UN led negotiations will take place in Bali, Indonesia, in December, with the goal of reaching an agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Huq says the Washington meeting was a "sideshow", but would not hinder progress in UN talks.

"The fear was that the United States would try to initiate some major exercise on its own in parallel to the UN framework convention," he says. "But all the countries that went made it very clear that this was not a replacement for UN negotiations."

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