WASHINGTON President Barack Obama is launching a "Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate" to help facilitate a U.N. agreement on global warming, the White House said on Saturday.
Leaders from 16 major economies have been invited to a preparatory session on April 27 and 28 in Washington to "help generate the political leadership necessary" to achieve an international pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions later this year, it said in a statement.
It said the meeting would spur dialogue among developed and developing countries about the issue, "and advance the exploration of concrete initiatives and joint ventures that increase the supply of clean energy while cutting greenhouse gas emissions."
The major economies include: Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and the United States.
Denmark, which is hosting a U.N. meeting at the end of this year to forge a pact that would take over from the Kyoto Protocol, and the United Nations were also invited.
The group's preparatory sessions are to culminate with a major meeting on the subject in La Maddalena, Italy in July, hosted by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
The Group of Eight (G8) rich nations also meets at the same location in Italy in July, though the statement did not spell out whether the meetings were connected.
Obama, a Democrat, has taken an aggressive stance toward fighting climate change, in a break from his predecessor, former Republican President George W. Bush.
Bush also spearheaded a "major economies" initiative on the issue, but many participants were skeptical of the process and concerned it was his administration's way of circumventing broader U.N. talks to forge an international deal.
The White House made clear in its statement that Obama's initiative would aim to augment U.N. talks. The April meeting was to be held at the State Department, it said.
Up to 190 nations are to meet in Bonn, Germany, on Sunday to work on plugging huge gaps in the international pact, which is slated to be agreed in Denmark in December.
Obama wants to cut U.S. emissions by roughly 15 percent back to 1990 levels by 2020 -- tougher than Bush, who saw U.S. emissions peaking as late as 2025.