CHANTILLY, Va. -- Fulfilling a promise it made almost two weeks ago, the United States says it will negotiate limits on emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases thought by scientists to cause global warming.
The United States also said yesterday it would consider providing financial and technical assistance to less developed nations that will be asked to halt the cutting of their rain forests and take other actions to curb the threat from rising temperatures around the world. Some of the actions could harm their economies.
The U.S. position, agreed to by the White House in the final hours of an international conference here, set the stage for delegates from more than 100 nations to ratify a pact that establishes guidelines for negotiating a treaty to respond to the threat from global warming.
"The meeting was a substantial step forward in that 100 countries agreed to established a framework by which to deal with the question of global climate change over the course of the next 16 months," said Michael R. Deland, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Leaders of environmental groups criticized the U.S. delegation, saying that American negotiators under the direction of John H. Sununu, the White House chief of staff, had sought since the start of the conference on Feb. 4 to prevent more substantive discussion of potential solutions for global warming.
David D. Doniger, a senior lawyer in Washington for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national environmental group, said: "The largest problem that remains is that the United States is still not committed to targets or a timetable for cutting emissions of carbon dioxide."
The international conference was the first of four to be held around the world before a meeting to be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 to consider a treaty to reduce the threat from global warming.
Many of the delegates meeting here said they had hoped to quickly establish the guidelines for the negotiations and then use the rest of their time in the United States to write a preliminary draft of the final treaty. Their plans were stymied by the American delegation's refusal to consider anything other than procedural issues.
The negotiating tactics put the United States at odds with almost every other nation represented here, including its closest allies.
Administration officials said Sununu was skeptical of models that predict severe climatic change as carbon dioxide and several other gases were trapping heat in the atmosphere like the glass panes of a greenhouse.
Efforts to reach Sununu yesterday were unsuccessful.