Poor old George. Like a stuck record his feeble plan for countries to set their own targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions was widely criticized by other countries.

Some delegates at a meeting of the world’s top 16 polluters saw Mr Bush’s comments as a US reluctance to commit to binding action on global warming.

“Each nation must decide for itself the right mix of tools and technology to achieve results that are measurable and environmentally effective,” Mr Bush told delegates in Washington.

But his comments did not go down well with a number of the ministers, diplomats and officials attending the US-sponsored forum on energy security and climate change. South African Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said in a statement: “What [the US] placed on the table at this meeting is a first step, but is simply not enough.

The British climate envoy, John Ashton, said the US seemed isolated on the issue of fighting climate change. “I think that the argument that we can do this through voluntary approaches is now pretty much discredited internationally,”