In the past America has avoided global talks on tackling climate change and has steered away from any proposed capping of greenhouse gas emissions.
In a surprise move away from this stance President Bush acknowledged yesterday that long-term goals for reducing greenhouse gases are needed. He is calling for global and national targets on greenhouse gas emissions to be set by the end of next year.
What's more, he has offered to facilitate the process by inviting the 15 most polluting countries, importantly including China and India, to Washington for a series of meetings to agree a framework for tackling climate change.
Prior to this announcement the US President has favoured reducing emissions through the use of new technology. America's past reluctance to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is probably due to their own high reliance on 'dirty' coal fired power stations.
President Bush's announcement comes just the week before the meeting of the G8 leading nations in Germany. It was widely expected that Mr Bush would be put under intense pressure by the G8 to accept caps on American emissions of greenhouse gases and to join the global system of trading carbon emissions credits which channels billions of dollars into clean development in poor countries.
America's change in attitude has been welcomed by some (including Tony Blair) and met with scepticism by many environmental groups.
At face value the President's sentiment appears good but there are fears that this announcement has been deliberately timed to undermine the G8 summit to be held in Germany next week.
My own feeling is that it has been designed to take the pressure off President Bush to commit to specific climate change measures at next week's summit.
He has committed to a new process of agreeing target led reduction of emissions which is not the same as committing to targets themselves. Delays are likely and reaching agreement is far from sure.
I don't like being a cynic, but I think I have to lean that way on this one. The phrase "a leopard doesn't change his spots" springs to mind!