RIO DE JANEIRO — In a last-ditch attempt Thursday to build momentum for President Bush's arrival, the chief U.S. delegate to the Earth Summit said Bush would push for "very prompt" ratification of a global climate treaty and launch an international effort to help inventory plants, animals and other organisms.
The efforts, calculated to salvage the Administration's much criticized record at the Earth Summit, did not appear likely to change any opinions.
Delegates from other nations praised the initiatives as constructive but stressed that they would not compensate for Bush's reluctance to commit to stronger action on global warming or his refusal to sign a biological diversity treaty.
In another conciliatory gesture, Bush also agreed to meet today with leaders of American and foreign environmental groups that have been among his most outspoken critics at the summit.
At a press conference Thursday, William K. Reilly, the head of the American delegation to the United Nations-sponsored conference, tried to mollify critics by announcing Bush's pledge to submit the global warming treaty to the Senate for ratification "as soon as possible" and to work toward its approval within a year.
Reilly, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, also promised that the United States would complete by Jan. 1, 1993, a detailed action plan for reducing emissions of gases believed to cause global warming and engage in "strict, early" monitoring of emissions of the gases from electrical generating plants.
At the same time, the Administration proposed spending $1.4 billion for climate-change research in 1993, the largest such effort in the world, Reilly said.
"We enter the field of action now, enter the field of commitments, a period that will test whether the promises of this conference will in fact be realized. . . . " Reilly told the gathering of international press.
The proposal to survey species calls for an international program to help launch and coordinate efforts and distribute information.
Scientists have long complained that the world cannot hope to save species and their habitat until more is known about them. Researchers generally estimate that 10 million to 30 million varieties of wildlife exist but also concede that the actual number could reach 100 million, most of them insects and microorganisms.
Inventory efforts in the United States now are scattered among various programs, and it was not clear whether the initiative would combine them. Some developing nations have virtually no inventories of their nature.
The Bush initiative envisions national surveys managed at the federal or regional levels. Computerized data from various nations would be catalogued and shared, and an international scientific committee would be convened to guide the effort.
Reilly said details would be worked out with other nations during and after the summit. He did not say how the initiative would be funded.
Other delegates said the proposal would not compensate for the U.S. failure to sign the biological diversity treaty, which also calls for general surveys of species and habitats. The United States is the lone holdout on the biodiversity treaty.
Jose Goldemberg, Brazil's minister of education and the environment, called the Bush proposal "a Pavlovian reaction" to international criticism, albeit a "constructive step."
"My personal position is that the biodiversity convention, without the United States, is bound to be a weak convention," Goldemberg said.
The Brazilian minister said he was encouraged, however, by Bush's intention to push for quick ratification of the global warming treaty. Bush had come under intense criticism when negotiators, at the Administration's insistence, stripped that accord of specific targets and timetables for reducing warming gases.
"It means that we are serious about the climate convention, we're ready to work and the United States is willing to help," Goldemberg said.
Margaret Brusasco-Mackenzie, environmental affairs administrator for the 12-nation European Community, was less enthusiastic.
She noted that the United States, like Europe, already monitors emissions of warming gases from electrical plants. Completing an action plan quickly is admirable but it should include strong commitments to reduce energy use, she said.
Carbon dioxide is released by the burning of such fossil fuels as oil, gas and coal and is considered the primary cause of projected global warming.
Like other delegates, Brusasco-Mackenzie said the inventory plan sounds "great, but we would be even happier" if the United States signed the biological diversity treaty.
The Bush Administration has said it supports the treaty's goals to conserve species and habitat but objects to provisions on financing and patent protection.
Reilly, in a brief interview, said delegates had told him that they were "strongly encouraged" by the President's pledges to implement the climate treaty quickly, but most were not yet familiar with the inventory proposal.