The text is a "road map" for negotiations to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The latest draft calls for industrialized countries to reduce emissions 25% to 40% below 1990 levels by 2020. The U.S., however, has been adamant that the targets not be included.
The Hawaii talks, officially known as the Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change, will be meaningless if no targets are included in the text from the ongoing summit on the Indonesian island of Bali, said Humberto Rosa, chief negotiator from Portugal, which holds the rotating EU presidency.
"No result in Bali means no Major Economies Meeting," said Sigmar Gabriel of Germany, a top EU environment official. "This is the clear position of the EU. I do not know what we should talk about if there is no target."
Bush proposed the meeting of the world's 17 biggest polluters in September when he skipped an assembly of 80 world leaders convened by the United Nations to consider global warming.
Critics have charged that the Hawaii meeting represents an effort by the U.S. to control the agenda and force the adoption of voluntary emissions standards rather than the mandatory caps that could have resulted from a U.N.-sponsored convocation.
James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, told reporters that the EU's insistence on targets was "itself a blocking effort."
But former Vice President Al Gore, addressing the Bali delegates, said the lack of firm targets in the road map should not be a deal breaker. Accusing the U.S. delegation of "obstructing progress" on the climate talks, he said efforts should proceed with the expectation that a change in administration in Washington will bring a change in position.
"Over the next two years, the United States is going to be somewhere it is not now," he said. "I must tell you candidly that I cannot promise that the person who is elected will have the position I expect they will have. But I can tell you I believe it is quite likely."
In Washington, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino responded to Gore's speech:
"I can't understand where that comes from," she said, adding that the conference was called to establish a framework to set goals rather than to set specific targets right away.
She said the United States had objected to setting definite goals "because we're not prepared at this moment to do that." She said the administration wanted to conduct negotiations over the next year, a course Bush outlined this summer at a Group of 8 meeting in Germany.
Referring to the administration's support for higher fuel mileage standards and other steps, Perino said that "we have moved forward. While we have not set a specific target for a cut, we have said we're willing to do that, but we're willing to do that in the framework of post-2012, after Kyoto."
Jose Atienza, environment secretary of the Philippines, said that the U.S. position had stirred widespread resentment at the Bali meeting. "Everyone is concerned about the stonewalling of the United States," he said. "You can feel it in the halls.
"The giant is not moving, and everybody else is trying to paddle," he said.
Meanwhile, a U.N. agency released new data showing that the last 10 years were the warmest on record.
"It's very likely the warmest period for at least the last 1,000 or 1,300 years," said Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization.
Jarraud also said the world's average surface temperature had risen by 1.33 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900.
Zarembo reported from Nusa Dua and Maugh from Los Angeles. Times staff writer James Gerstenzang in Washington contributed to this report.