In a much talked about speech on Wednesday from the White House Rose Garden, George W. Bush set out to weigh-in early on his administration’s environmental legacy. The president outlined his philosophies, accomplishments and hopes for the future on the issue of climate change. The highlight of the speech was the announcement of a “new national goal,” to stop the increase of America’s carbon emissions by 2025. There was notably little mention of what the administration planned to do in its final months to ensure that such a goal was reached.

The two greatest accomplishments that Bush touted were a reduction in America’s greenhouse gas intensity—which has naturally decreased at basically the same rate each year for decades regardless of the President in office—and an unquestionably more sizable accomplishment: the increase of CAFE standards to 35 mpg by 2020.

Mixed Reviews

Environmentalists and Democrats were quick to criticize the speech for a variety of reasons, with most questioning its lack of specific policy goals. Massachusetts Representative Ed Markey quipped that the real headline over the announcement should be, “Bush pledges to do nothing before Jan. 20, 2009, the day he will leave office.” Others, like David Roberts of Grist.org, whose April 16th post offered a comprehensive breakdown of the speech, gave a more detailed critique:

There’s nothing new in this speech. It’s meant to thwart real efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. It’s meant to gum up the international process. It’s meant to protect corporate contributors from regulatory constraints.

One place the speech found a generally positive reception was the Heritage Foundation, which has long been an opponent of government involvement in the climate change issue. Senior Policy Analyst for Energy and the Environment, Ben Lieberman, criticized the President for “embracing specific emissions targets,” but was generally satisfied with the speech, saying it “was more important for what the President said he would not support than for what he said he would support.”